TKC’s top 11 music albums
February 8, 2021
I asked 11 TKC staffers to write a review of their favorite music album. The results covered pop albums from Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, classics like Pink Floyd and The Beatles and even multilingual albums like Makoto Matsushitas’ “First Light.” These are the albums TKC thinks are worth giving a listen.
Fine Line – Harry Styles
Former One Direction member Harry Styles released his second solo album “Fine Line” Dec. 13, 2019, which reached number one on the Billboard 200 six days later. Styles represents a new generation of men who defy gender norms, as he appeared on the cover of Vogue in a glorious Gucci ball gown. Styles creates a stylistic melting pot, integrating indie-pop, funk, soul, pop-rock and psychedelic-pop genres into his sound. The most renowned songs from the album are “Watermelon Sugar” and “Adore You,” both sharing a dedication to the euphoric feelings associated with the beginning of a relationship. His most recognizable message to listeners is to “Treat People with Kindness,” which is overlooked in our current political atmosphere. Styles concludes the album with an eccentric outro, “Fine Line,” intertwining string instruments, horns and harmonies to typify the iconic album. “Fine Line” pays tribute to Styles’ navigation of his twenties and highlights the bliss and grief that go hand in hand in relationships.
Dreamland – Glass Animals
English pop band Glass Animals, finally broke into the American music scene with their aptly-named third album, “Dreamland.” The album opens with the mesmerizing first notes of the title track, welcoming listeners to the entrancing dreamscape of the rest of the songs. Glass Animals succeeds in making listeners feel like they’re walking through clouds on songs like “Helium,” before plummeting down to the neon streets of Japan for songs like “Tokyo Drifting.” The hypnotic atmosphere created in the album is tangible and electric. The album ends with an upbeat melody that transitions into the opening notes from the title track, “Dreamland,” resulting in the perfect conclusion. The album boasts hypnotizing, ethereal songs offset by those with heavier, faster beats. Catchier songs like “Tangerine” and the iconic “Heat Waves” have made their way to the radio, but the album is best when listened to as a whole to get the full mesmerizing effect. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking about “Dreamland” nonstop for days.
Father of the Bride – Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend’s Grammy-winning fourth album, “Father of the Bride,” leaves behind the indie-pop and Afro-pop influences of their first three albums, adopting instead a genre-defying combination of baroque pop, soul, R&B and rock. The album boldly opens with “Hold You Now,” featuring the gorgeous vocals of Danielle Haim, which create a melancholy but beautiful folk song. This opening track, unique from anything previously produced by the band, reflects how the departure of one of the band’s songwriters and producers, Rostam, affected their sound. This can be seen throughout the rest of the album, as the group experiments with deeper and more philosophical lyrics contrasting the twinkly, almost lullaby sound of the song. The lyrics of “Harmony Hall,” “This Life” and “How Long?” all lament the existential problems of life while set to a jovial melody and upbeat guitar. Any loss due to the departure of one of the band’s core members is made up for by the contributions of the featured singers in this diverse and masterfully created album.
Djesse vol. 3 – Jacob Collier
The third album of four from 26 year-old London prodigy Jacob Collier, Djesse vol. 3 delights with a glittering, genre-bending 12 song array. Collier, Royal Academy of Music graduate and four-time Grammy winner, continues pushing boundaries by incorporating complex music theory with funk and pop-influenced groove. With an all-star list of unexpected collaborators including Ty Dolla $ign and Tori Kelly, the album takes a distinct approach to pop music. Djesse vol. 3 is perhaps the only album where you can find a Bach choral and the sound of dropping anvils on the same song (Sleeping On My Dreams). On Count the People, a danceable pop rhythm with a catchy, bouncy chorus, you’ll find T-Pain and dizzying rap verses from Collier himself. “Running out of Love” brings Tori Kelly’s shimmering vocals and Collier’s trademark harmonies together in the most serendipitous of combos. Every song on Djesse vol. 3 is a standout, ranging from soft ballads (“He Won’t Hold You”) to heartfelt jams (“Time Alone With You feat. Daniel Caesar”).
Jacob Collier is a uniquely 21st century musical genius, combining global influences and embracing eccentricity to create a singular, youthful sound. His music showcases the range of human emotions and the limits of musical boundaries. Give it a listen and be prepared to simultaneously be confused, surprised and delighted.
Check out the full version of this review in print and online in TKC’s Issue 6 magazine.
Back to Black – Amy Whinehouse
The late Amy Winehouse’s latest and final album, “Back to Black,” is a beautiful reflection of Winehouses’s fight for sobriety. The album begins with “Rehab,” which has a surprisingly sanguine tone in contrast to the lyrics that describe Winehouse’s reluctance to commit herself to a rehabilitation center. Multiple songs in the album like “Love’s A Losing Game,” “Me & Mr. Jones” and “You Know I’m No Good” deal with Winhouses’s troubled love life and addictions to not only substances, but people as well. The album is a timeless gem that is genre blending and draws inspiration from blues and jazz. However, it still manages to keep up with the competitive music industry by incorporating tones of pop music and a fast paced beat. The entire album is a portal into Winehouese’s internal struggles concealed by unique vocals and prodigious music that can reach any audience.
Evermore – Taylor Swift
I’ve been a self-proclaimed “Swiftie” since I was in first grade. Taylor Swift’s latest album, “Evermore,” displays her ability to combine the older elements that made me a “Swiftie” with a fresh sound. “‘tis the damn season” showcases Swift’s storytelling ability as it transports you into the shoes of someone who is home for the holidays and has rekindled an old fling. With its winter themes, it’s like a brand new “Back to December,” from Swift’s 2010 album, “Speak Now.” “champagne problems” tells the story of a wedding proposal gone wrong. With nostalgic vibes similar to “All Too Well” and “New Years Day,” it will become your new favorite heartbreak song. “gold rush” and “long story short” will have you singing into your hairbrush remembering Swift’s “1989” era. Packed with country elements, “no body, no crime” could fit on her first album. With lyrics like “I come back stronger than a 90s trend,” good luck convincing me that “Evermore” isn’t the greatest Taylor Swift album (and album) of all time.
Rubber soul – The Beatles
I know what you’re thinking: “not another Beatles fan.” But just hear me out. “Rubber Soul” – the group’s sixth studio album – is a sweet spot for the Fab Four. The collection begins with experimental touches but still keeps the light, airy feel of all the trademarks of the band’s early days: three part harmonies, unique guitar licks and lyrics that make you want to sing along. Pop lovers obsessed with the catchy melodies that modern music provides will fall in love with this 14-track 1965 classic. All you have to do is give the boys a chance. From the introspective lyrics and iconic riff of “In My Life” to John, Paul and George’s perfect harmonies and distinct guitar solo of “Nowhere Man,” “Rubber Soul” is the perfect album for a sunny road trip, but also an essential for dancing around your room.
Chip Chrome & the Mono-Tones – The Neighbourhood
If anyone was going to save 2020, one of the most disastrous years in decades, it would be The Neighbourhood. An American indie alternative band, The Neighbourhood released their latest album, Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones in December of 2020. Jesse Rutherford, the band’s lead vocalist, is credited with the inspiration for the album’s namesake. Each song is centered around Chip Chrome, Jesse Rutherford’s alter ego, inspired by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. The album starts off with “Stargazing,” an upbeat introduction to the album sure to bring positive energy to every listener. The mood then quickly shifts to a more down tempo rhythm with songs like “Over the Influence” and “Here We Go Again.” Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones is arguably The Neighbourhood’s most creatively driven album, with uniquely produced songs such as “Boohoo” and “Hell or High Water.” “Silver Lining” and “The Shining” are perfect examples of The Neighbourhood’s ability to produce countless genre defying songs, as there is no way to truly describe their sound. Regardless of which song in the album you start with, you are sure to find a song you love from Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones.
First Light (2018 Remaster) – Makoto Matsushitas
The debut 1982 album for Japanese song writer Makoto Matsushitas’ solo career, “First Light” manages to highlight all his amazing musical talents. From the chill synths to the beautiful harmonizations throughout the songs, Matsushita keeps the audience’s attention with a sprinkle of bass and trumpet solos. Come for jazz funk style and stay for the lyrics. Though Japanese is his first language, Matsushita manages to pivot to English in all of his songs, allowing a larger audience to enjoy his album. First appearing on Spotify in 2018, the album only has around 800,000 listens, but is being brought into the spotlight by the growing City Pop community.
Dangerous: The Double Album – Morgan Wallen
Morgan Wallen’s newest album, “Dangerous: The Double Album,” debuted in early 2021, comprising of 30 songs and over one hour and 30 minutes of run time. Without a full album release since 2018, the double album epic rocked the country genre, throwing both country and the album into mainstream media. While Wallen doesn’t dive fully into ‘old country,’ he finds the perfect mix between old-style country and new pop music. The album serves as an introduction for new country fans, especially those apprehensive about the genre. With top hits such as “865” and “Neon Lights” as well as hidden gems like “Country A$$ Shit,” Wallen produces a vibrant and complex album anyone can listen to on repeat. It’s hard to call this a ‘greatest of all time’ album, as it’s simply too new. However, it is not too soon to predict the long-lasting impact Wallen and his album will have on country music. From bringing new fans into the genre to exciting old ones, Wallen has produced a masterpiece for generations to enjoy.
Meddle – Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd fans can be split into two categories: those who favor the psychedelic Syd Barrett era and fans of the band’s more progressive material dominated by Roger Waters. Between both of these eras lies a transitional period for the band, resulting in albums such as the lengthy “Atom Heart Mother” and experimental “Ummagumma.” However, towering above both of these LPs is the significant yet oft-overlooked Meddle, where, unlike many albums the band has produced, the end result realizes the band as a cohesive unit rather than simply a mechanism for one member to overshadow the others. Beginning with the chugging and iconic bassline of “One of These Days,” the album takes several detours into different genres such as the folk-oriented “A Pillow of Winds” and jazzy “San Tropez.” The album ends with the ambitious “Echoes,” an epic that hones the experimental nature of past works into one of Pink Floyd’s undeniable masterpieces.