By Michael Goussios
Over the past couple years, music has evolved tremendously. Many amazing artists have produced great projects that have changed the sounds of our modern world. In order to have lasting power in the music industry, you must create something memorable, unique, and something that separates itself from all the other music out there. Today, I will be discussing 5 albums that I have truly loved over the past 5 years. Through many different genres, artists, and styles, these projects have stood out to me, and are certainly worth recognition.
5. Folklore (2020) – Taylor Swift
Swift’s eighth studio album, folklore, displays something completely new for her, combined with something so familiar. The entirety of the album, aside from some influences based on reality, is fictitious. Lo-fi ballads such as Illicit Affairs and Betty showcase her amazing and descriptive storytelling skills. Swift even linked together three songs to form a storyline within the album; Cardigan, August, and Betty that individually take on the perspective of a character in a love triangle. In these three tracks, we uncover the story of how 17-year-old James makes a mistake and ruins his relationship with his girlfriend. Alongside this, we get the perspective of a vulnerable and heartbroken Betty (the girlfriend), and the point of view of, “the other girl,” Augustine, who spent a summer believing she was in love, only to find her butterflies flew away by the summer’s end. This creative and captivating storyline brings a unique quality to the album. The production is subtle, letting Swift’s lyrics and voice take centre stage. I find myself revisiting this album often and I personally believe it’s one of Swift’s best works. Overall, this project was emotional, enthralling, and very impressive.
Best Tracks: The 1, Cardigan, My Tears Ricochet, Mirrorball, August, Peace.
4. IGOR (2019) – Tyler, the Creator
IGOR, the fifth studio album created by Tyler, the Creator, is not your typical “rap” project at all. In fact, Tyler himself, prior to the album’s release, said, “Don’t go into this expecting a rap album.” IGOR did, ironically, go on to win Best Rap Album at the 2020 Grammy Awards but in essence represents so much more. Incorporating elements of neo-soul, hip hop, R&B, and even funk music, IGOR combines experimental production and impactful lyrics. The whole piece tells an emotional story about a love triangle regarding Tyler’s character, Igor, falling in love with a boy who is already in a relationship with a girl. The entire album flows on a musical loop, which is to be considered a symbol of Igor falling in love with this boy over and over again. A new literal take on calling something a roller coaster of emotions! Songs like, “I THINK,” and, “A BOY IS A GUN,” fit perfectly into the overarching storyline, but also work independently as great pieces of music. In this album, Tyler collaborates with Kali Uchis, Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and many other musical artists. With amazing storytelling and arguably his best production yet, IGOR is an album that is not only monumental for Tyler as an artist, but will be a staple in music for years to come.
Best Tracks: EARFQUAKE, I THINK, A BOY IS A GUN, WHAT’S GOOD
3. Norman F***ing Rockwell! (2019) – Lana Del Rey
Norman F***ing Rockwell! (NFR) is undeniably Lana Del Rey’s most poetic, impressive, and beautiful piece of work. Her lyricism has always been moving and unique, but NFR showcases some of Del Rey’s most emotional and deep storytelling. She sings of love and heartbreak, loneliness and hope. The New York singer partners with Jack Antonoff to create soft, sweet production, tied together with beautiful melodies and harmonies. Del Rey creates a story arc from, “a breakup to self affirmation,” and includes all of the emotions in between. Depression, death, climate change, and gun violence are just some of the topics seamlessly incorporated into this project. NFR is one of my favourite albums of all time, and is well deserving of it’s critical acclaim. After listening to this album many times, I am left wondering if this truly is, “The Next Best American Record.”
Best Tracks: Mariners Apartment Complex, Venice B*tch, Cinnamon Girl, The greatest, Happiness is a Butterfly.
2. Melodrama (2017) – Lorde
Lorde’s second album, Melodrama, takes on a completely different production style and message to her first project, Pure Heroine. Considering the commercial success of her debut album, this creative 180° was a risky move, but it paid off tremendously. Lyrics about heartbreak, partying, and coming of age come together to create a beautiful piece of art. Before she was 20 years old, Lorde moved to New York and there gained inspiration for the album she wanted to create. In Writer in the Dark, she says, “I ride the subway, read the signs; I let the seasons change my mind.” With New York as her backdrop, Lorde captures the feelings of loneliness and euphoria at the same time. She says the project resembles an escentric houseparty that she is attending after having her heart broken. Once the ecstasy wears off from songs like Sober and Homemade Dynamite, we experience emotional pieces such as Liability, with the lines, “I am a toy that people enjoy ‘til all of the tricks don’t work anymore.” Throughout the entire piece, Lorde utilizes her Synaesthesia (a condition where certain sounds, smells, or letters associate with shapes, colours, and textures) to create a cohesive and uniquely layered experience. Lorde said the album cover incorporporated all of the colours she felt and saw while listening to the record. I play this album all the time and it’s one of the first music pieces I truly fell in love with. Lorde encapsulates raw emotions, including heartbreak and loneliness, to create an incredibly moving piece.
Best Tracks: The Louvre, Hard Feelings, Writer in the Dark, Supercut, Perfect Places.
1. Punisher (2020) – Phoebe Bridgers
A relatively new face in indie music, Phoebe Bridgers, has created something truly special with her second solo project, Punisher. When listening to this album, it brings an atmosphere along with it. A haunted house with a picket fence or a garden with a clear view of the moon and a Chinese Satellite. Bridgers’ songwriting is so unique that many of her songs prompt the wistful, “I wish I wrote that”. She discusses vulnerable topics about herself like being suicidal, going through emotional abuse, and being heartbroken. One of the many standout lines of this album is, “I’ve been playing dead my whole life; and I get this feeling, whenever I feel good, it’ll be the last time.” There is an amazing combination of different production styles, and the album stays cohesive without getting boring. The lyricism showcases storytelling in each track, especially in songs such as Graceland Too and Garden Song. Every sentence she sings has an impact, and none of her words are wasted. When listening to Punisher, even after hearing it multiple times, I must stop and think about some of the words Bridgers’ is saying. “There’s a last time for everything,” “If you’re a work of art, I’m standing too close; I can see the brushstrokes,” and, “I don’t know how but I’m taller; It must be something in the water.” All in all, everything about this album captivated me. I could easily pronounce this one of my favourite albums ever, and it is surely my “most listened-to” project of all time. With amazing production, lyricism, and vocals, Punisher is truly a momentous piece of music in my books.
Best Tracks: Garden Song, Chinese Satellite, Moon Song, Savior Complex, ICU, I Know the End.