Our Favorite Albums of 2019

Check out what some of our DJs consider their favorite albums of 2019.

 

You Deserve LoveWhite Reaper

Review by Jane Harris

No one did it quite like White Reaper this year. 2019 was a bountiful year for the Louisville, Kentucky natives. With the release of their third studio album, You Deserve Love, White Reaper signed with Elektra Records, joining the ranks of rock n’ roll greats. However, the group isn’t too daunted by sharing a label with The Doors or The Cars, they are quite content blazing their own path and ‘reaping’ its benefits. One of their singles, “Might Be Right,” off You Deserve Love, has racked up over 3 million streams (and counting) since its release at the end of May, dethroning their staple “Judy French” as the band’s most-streamed single. White Reaper’s new album provides a perfect soundtrack for the turn of the year into a new decade— featuring  impressive battling guitar solos reminiscent of classic rock with contrasting high-energy synth sections that deepen the record’s sound. Though the new album isn’t quite as party-next-door sounding as their last two records, the natural progression of their sound as more sleek and tuned can’t be denied or ignored. This album shows that progress is valuable and important. You Deserve Love proves White Reaper succeeds in making intentional music for constantly evolving times and listeners. And that music fucking rocks.

Along with the success of their newest album, 2019 brought White Reaper their debut on national television— they rounded out the year with an electrifying performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Make no mistake, White Reaper is a force to be reckoned with. So sit back and kick off 2020 with some good tunes and some good love— you deserve it!

 

Come In, Weatherday

Review by August Caldwell

If you listen to any album I ever try to peddle into your earholes, please let it be the emo-punk masterpiece, Come In by Swedish artist Weatherday. I hesitated to suggest this album out of fear that every hip CC student would start listening to it and it would cease to be my own, personal album. But, in light of the season of giving, I decided to do a selfless act and give you, reader, the gift of this perfect album. You can thank me by listening to it.

Come In, Weatherday’s debut album, is a mystical grunge piece, both light and dark, soft and heavy all at the same time. Perhaps what I love most about this album is the lack of production on it. The album is self produced and according to the artist, Sputnik, was recorded mostly in their bedroom. The album possesses the simplicity of a Bandcamp gem and the elevation of raw musical talent. Listening to Come In is like being submerged in a complex dream, it is mysterious, but it resonates. It has a fantastic flow; the music moves you from unabashedly head-banging in public to weeping on your dorm room floor in one fluid motion. The album is absolutely delectable in its entirety, each song blends beautifully into the next, coming together to build a story whose contents seem to evolve with every listen. Come In is balanced; each track transitions seamlessly, and yet the album does not let the listener tune out, like many other albums of its genre. Weatherday injects chaotic and explosive energy throughout, but they make it sympathetic. There is not a dull moment in the entire album. The punk coarseness on tracks like Older Than Before and Cut Lips do not dominate and are balanced with softer, melodramatic tracks like Embarrassing Paintings and the opening moments of Mio, Min, Mio. The fifth track, My Sputnik Sweetheart, is especially noteworthy. The thirteen minute song is both long and crafted enough to subsist as an album in itself. My Sputnik Sweetheart is an emotional rollercoaster, carrying the listener from sunken ballad through a hardcore rage into a goose bump-raising gothic chord progression.

Come In is an important addition to the lo-fi emo-punk genre as one of the most creative albums to emerge from 2019. The album gives magic and a certain child-like thought process back to the genre. Weatherday has proved themselves to be an inspired lo-fi artist in their debut album and I look forward to their future productions in 2020.

 

Over It, Summer Walker

Review by August Caldwell

Atlanta native Summer Walker’s studio debut album, Over It, immediately stood out to me as one of the best albums of 2019. I am not the only one who holds this opinion, its debut week marked the largest streaming week for an R&B album by a female artist. Walker’s second album reveals a large professional leap from her first. She paired up with producer and boyfriend London on Da Track to create a well produced and star studded album sporting hit singles featuring other R&B stars, such as Come Thru with Usher and Playing Games with Bryson Tiller. In between these catchy, breakout tracks, there are gems tucked away that are as soulful as they are sexual, making the entire album an absolute pleasure to listen to, and a personal favorite of mine.

Over It has a slow, sultry flow filled with emotional complexity. Walker’s soft, crooning and at times, mumbly voice gives the album a very sexual feel. I often catch myself gently humping the air when I listen, no matter where I am. I have been trying to control myself, but the melodies are powerful. At the same time, the lyrics invite the listener to share Walker’s most inner thoughts of frustration, anger, desire and heartbreak. It is naughty at some points, Walker tenderly describes scenes of lovemaking on tracks like Stretch You Out and Body that unabashedly draw the listener into the bedroom and let them watch. No matter the content, Walker’s style never fails to be deeply introspective and moody. Walker, the introverted queen of R&B, presents herself as a sexually empowered and dominant woman across her songs, like Just Might with lyrics “I just might be a hoe.” The shy girl-sex kitten combination that Walker introduces is not only inviting but incredibly powerful.

Over It masterfully accentuates Walker’s talent and unique voice. Listening to the album is a deliciously spiritual experience; the sound is so soft and intimate it feels as if the album is wrapped in silk. The album is a great contribution the R&B genre and I am eager to follow Walker’s success in the upcoming decade.

 

Diaspora,Goldlink

Review by Emily Faulks

After listening to Goldlink’s second album At What Cost, I had been anticipating his new album for almost two years. When it finally came out, I was not disappointed. Although the album, entitled “Diaspora,” does not have the same 90’s inspired beats as songs like “Summatime” and “Crew” in his last album, Goldink beautifully creates a time capsule of the present that is scattered across a spatial plane. The songs in Diaspora feel like a musical representation of youth and vitality, the beats pulsating to Goldlink’s relaxed voice and airy choruses. The album opens with the brief introduction of a man sprinting outside on a summer night; then abruptly jumps to a mellow beat and buoyant hook from Ari PenSmith in “Joke Ting.” The album reflects the diaspora of black music through reggae inspired beats and D.C. slang that expose inequality beyond the D.C. area to other gentrifying cities in America and colonized countries in Latin America and Africa. This is my favorite rap album of the year because of Goldlink’s effortless flow paired with hip-swaying beats. It makes me feel like I’m right there with him: running alongside him on a summer night.

Patience, Mannequin Pussy

Review by Mimi Norton

I first heard of Mannequin Pussy when I saw them open for Japanese Breakfast on tour in 2017. I was captivated by their show because they performed at a breakneck pace, flying through a series of loud, high-energy songs; each of the band members’ bodies tensing and releasing according to the pulse of the drums. This punk record is driven by tight guitars and explosive drumming, but it’s exceptional because the album really features lead singer, Marisa Dabice, and lets her voice cut through the noise to share hard truths about trauma, toxic relationships, and self-love. This album is so fun to listen to, and will give anyone listening a new appreciation for patience in this crazy life we all live.

CONCERT REVIEW: Wilco at The Mission Ballroom in Denver

Wilco won’t let you down. Over the course of twenty-five years and eleven albums, they’ve established a fervent fanbase. Their live performances have a solid reputation; they’re known to play at least two-hour sets at every show, and they always include some fan favorites along with the songs from whatever album they’re promoting. In fact, they even have a spot on their website to enter song requests for different shows.

Jeff Tweedy. Photo credit: Mimi Norton

When I saw them on Nov. 19, frontman Jeff Tweedy announced that it had been twenty-five years and two days, to be exact, since their first show. When he said this, I was applauding just like everyone else, but I found myself regretting that it was only my first time seeing them. I went to the show on my own, and the two hours I spent alone in the front of the crowd were some of the most stunning and exciting in recent memory. I hope I’ll see them again and again.

Even though I’d read a lot about Wilco’s live shows previously, their performance at the Mission Ballroom blew all of my expectations away. After a decade of rotating through various members, their current lineup has been consistent since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. Each member was highlighted various times during the show, and most of them had incredible solos throughout the set.

Jeff Tweedy. Photo credit: Mimi Norton

In addition to the most iconic member of the band, Jeff Tweedy, I was especially excited to see guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Glen Kotche. Cline was named “a true guitar polymath” by Rolling Stone magazine on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, and it watching his iconic solo from “Impossible Germany” was a highlight of the show. Kotche was also named to Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Drummers, as they named him “a Jim Keltner-John Cage hybrid” for his talent and originality. Around the half-way point of the show, Kotche was dripping in sweat as his drumming drove one song after the next. Although Tweedy, Cline, and Kotche usually get most of the attention, each member put so much energy into the performance; it seemed like they were having just as good of a time as the audience.

Nels Cline. Photo credit: Mimi Norton

Most of the songs they played in Denver came either from their latest album, Ode to Joy, or 2004’s A Ghost is Born. Beyond those two albums, they threw in plenty of crowd favorites, such as “War on War,” “Hummingbird,” “Random Name Generator,” “Forget the Flowers,” and of course, “California Stars.”

Wilco’s sound and lyrics speak to various emotions around living, loving and so much more. As evidenced by the increasing size of venues they play on each subsequent tour, they manage to keep attracting more fans because of their consistently impressive shows and versatile music. They care so deeply about their craft, and it shows. For me, Wilco will always reign supreme.

New Playlists from WORM Radio

DJs Mia Zuckerberg and Carol Holan have been busy curating playlists for their show, WORM Radio, every Tuesday at 8:00. Their first playlist focuses on songs for when you have a gay crush, but don’t want to ruin the friendship. Listen to hear some great songs by Mothers, Fiona Apple, and Mazzy Star.

If you’re not feeling that, check out the playlist from their second show about driving alone for the first time. This playlist features an amazing range of artists that include Nina Simone, Perfume Genius, and Franz Ferdinand!

Make sure to tune in to WORM Radio every Tuesday from 8-9 for more good tunes!

Song(s) of the Weekend

I couldn’t decide on just one song to capture how I’m feeling on this second-to-last weekend of the year, so here are three to help you get through the end of 8th block:

“Friday Night, Saturday Morning” by The Specials
“Out of bed at eight AM / Out my head by half past ten / Out with mates and dates and friends / That’s what I do at weekends” and then the catchy refrain: “I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning.” This song is just like all of your eighth block weekends, except if your eighth block was taking place in England forty years and was narrated by a ska revival band.

https://open.spotify.com/track/66tyi2ix4ErbUBKFAVw98r?si=cXQP3reDSPCbOhsT5eyt4A

Credit: The Guardian

“On Some Faraway Beach” by Brian Eno
Maybe the most nostalgia-inducing song ever. When you drive or fly home in a few weeks, play this song as you stare out the window and you will probably cry. Very tender, very epic.

https://open.spotify.com/track/1ip0bzSgZsMrp7bSuxlKoa?si=aUN2TFwbQfGN6kQtDZba9A

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Saturday Night Inside Out” by the Avalanches

SO good! This song will mess you up emotionally and take you to another place. It’s basically a spoken word poem by David Berman of the band Silver Jews in collaboration with The Avalanches. Around 00:45, you start hearing an amazing beat and the song becomes so beautiful. I have a hard time describing what I feel when listening to this song, but I think it’s intended to be a reflection on youth and growing up – which is what we all deal with every day in college. Especially for you seniors graduating, this song is for you. (Also if you haven’t heard The Avalanches’ album Wildflower, it’s so incredible and this song feels so much more special as the last track on the album.)

https://open.spotify.com/track/3wWZfpPJXnW5cS6ULwdJqW?si=SM_yQr5cRKOt3xT7hJ0svA

Credit: Vice

SONG OF THE WEEK: Ty Segall – “My Lady’s On Fire”

Ty Segall’s music is typically pretty grunge-rock-y, but this song leans much more to pop and jazz than most of his other tunes. “My Lady’s on Fire” has been one of my favorite songs for the past few months, and despite the obscene amount of times I’ve listened to it, I still get excited every time it comes on. I first heard this song when I saw Ty play a live acoustic set which was really fitting because this song showcases how much more confident he’s become with his voice over his career. This song is a must-listen for anyone and everyone!

Sing along to the song here or on Spotify!

Ty Segall – credit Getty Images

Concert Review: Kamasi Washington at the Buckhead Theater on Nov. 17

As the lights dimmed in Atlanta’s Buckhead Theater, James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” played overhead and members of Kamasi Washington’s band walked on stage and received a warm welcome from the audience.

Once Kamasi stepped on stage, we were all transfixed by his presence – immense, towering, powerful. The audience yelled and hollered and even I, being relatively new to his music, felt I was in the presence of a real demigod. In fact, Washington has been referred to as the “savior of jazz,” but he’s always been too humble to accept the accolade.

Photo credit: Krists Luhaers, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:POS17_@Kristsll-409_(35194970423).jpg

FlyLo and Thundercat have made a name for themselves as more electronic musicians, but Washington doesn’t feel the need to stray too far from traditional jazz. He’s emulated and expanded upon the music of his jazz heroes and proved that he can do it bigger and better than perhaps any other jazz musician at the moment.

I was blown away by the power and energy that Washington packed into his performance. I was expecting a relatively mellow night, but Washington and his band delivered super funky bass jams, an epic drum-off between his two drummers, and soaring vocals from his vocalist Patrice Quinn that got the entire theater dancing.

After a few songs, he introduced Quinn by saying “Patrice is one of the best singers I know. You can tell some people are good by the way they talk, but Patrice, she sounds amazing even when she’s cursing at you.”

After Washington introduced Quinn, she launched into the most powerful song of the set: “Malcolm’s Theme,” from Washington’s debut album, The Epic. The songs lyrics come directly from Ossie Davis’ eulogy for civil rights icon Malcolm X. The moving lyrics, paired with Quinn’s emotional, powerful, and beautiful delivery gave everyone goosebumps.

My favorite part of the set was when Washington’s stand-up bass player, Miles Mosley, played his incredible funk epic “Abraham.” I was blown away by Mosley’s ability to create such otherworldly and groovy sounds. Here is a link to a performance of Mosley’s playing “Abraham” that I suggest you all watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c73NCDr5ACo (skip to 3:30 if you’re limited for time).

After being mesmerized by Washington for almost two hours of free-jazz digressions and thoughtful, intricate pieces, I felt like I’d been to a different universe and back. Just like the legendary Pharaoh Sanders who I had the chance to see earlier this year, Washington’s music transcended all of us to another realm of experiencing. Washington confirmed that jazz can be as lively, engaging, and fascinating as any other genre, if not more so.

Concert Review: Courtney Barnett at The Ogden Theater on 9/28

Taken by Eric de Redelijkheid on Flikr

This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to see the first night of Courtney Barnett’s North American tour promoting her most recent album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, released this May. My sister and I navigated our way through a crowd of IPA-drinking and Blundstone-wearing 30-something-year-old fans and eventually made our way to the front of Denver’s Ogden Theater. I’ve been lucky enough to see Courtney twice before – once with Kurt Vile promoting their joint album Lotta Sea Lice at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, and another time at Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta – but this was the most intimate venue I’d seen her play.

From the moment she stepped on the stage, no one could take their eyes off of her. I don’t play guitar myself, so I’m not typically apt at telling a guitar virtuoso apart from a player who’s just okay, but after watching Courtney’s intricate fretting all over the guitar neck, I realized what exceptional talent she had. She’s been praised countless times for her lyricism, but her abilities on the guitar are seriously underrated.

If you’re already familiar with Courtney Barnett, you’d know that she’s been lauded for her witty attention to detail and ability to create memorable songs out of mundane events ever since she started making music in 2014. For instance, some of her best-known songs are about an asthma attack, house hunting, and eating ramen noodles. However, some of her songs are a much more personal and vulnerable account of life through her eyes. The audience lost it when she sung one of her most well-known songs, “Pedestrian at Best,” and everyone yelled with her as she screamed “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you! / Tell me I’m exceptional, I promise to exploit you!” Her self-deprecating remark is an ironic statement about not wanting to be fame that inevitably comes along with being a musical phenomenon.

Similarly, one of the songs on her new album is titled “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence” and here she is also especially critical about herself (“I never feel as stupid as when I’m around you / And indecision rots / Like a bag of last week’s meat”). However, she still comes across as uninhibited – never caring how her audience will receive her perceived self-consciousness. Even though that songs ends with her claiming “I don’t know, I don’t know anything,” and repeats it literally twelve times, it’s obvious that one thing she does know is herself.

At one point during the show, she introduced one of her older songs “Are You Looking After Yourself?” by telling us she wrote it after a long phone call with her parents. The song begins with a line that was spoken by her parents: “Are you working / hard my darling? / We’re so worried,” but she counters their criticism with: “I don’t want to no 9 to 5 / Telling me that I’m alive.” Later in the song, her parents suggest “You should start some / sort of trust fund / just in case you fail.” I imagine that being a musician, especially one who writes so personally like Courtney does, can be terrifying since she has to constantly rely on others’ validation and positive reception in order to keep going. However, Courtney replies with a sarcastic response and sings “I don’t know what I was thinking / I should get a job… / should get married / have some babies / watch the evening news.” The thought that Courtney, a woman of such obvious talent, would quit making art and instead get a job is ridiculous.

Her humble attitude helps explain why 1,600 of us in the sold-out Ogden Theater were so entranced by Courtney for her entire two-hour long set; she’s so devoted to her work and in love with what she is doing that we couldn’t help but marvel at all of the energy she put in to every note and every word. Thanks, Courtney, for blowing us all away once again, and I hope this won’t be the last time I see you!