To put it quite frankly, this year has been difficult. Everyone knows that. Learning online is difficult and the world has had more than its fair share of battles this year which can weigh heavy on an empath like myself. Studying, listening and analyzing music has been one of my biggest pastimes this year. I have gained so much appreciation for it and a love that will surely last a lifetime. I wanted to highlight some of the albums I listened to this year that brought me so much comfort when I needed it the most. Here are my deepest affections and biggest thank yous to the five (well, six … but you'll see more on that) albums of my year.
To start off I wanted to highlight Fiona Apple's Fetch The Bolt Cutters. I would love to say that I am cultured and have listened to Apple's work for years and years but that simply wouldn't be true. I just happened to see people on Twitter talking about it and I thought, “sure why not?” I went on Genius after my first initial listening to get more insight, something that has become a habit of mine during this year. I quickly found the quotes of what Apple said about each song and it opened this whole new level for me. Apple found a way to write about female rage, the connection people feel through trauma, womanhood, depression and just reflecting on life that was so poignant and smart. The fact she compared depression to carrying a heavy balloon, rage to a relay sport and the weight of the patriarchy to being kicked under the table was just pure genius. The rhythms on this album allowed me to just dance and sing and scream along to it when the world's stresses were simply too much.
Favorite Songs: “Under The Table,” “Relay,” & “Heavy Balloon.”
Next is Women in Music Part. III by Haim. I have been a casual listener of the Haim sisters for a few years now. I had been keeping up with their singles leading up to the album since last year and I loved the turns they were making from classic pop sounds to more of a rocking throwback feel. WIMPIII is filled with this feeling. I find myself comparing it to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours on more than one song. It similarly deals with the woes of relationships, trying your best and being a woman during the 21st century. This album is just so catchy. I found it played through the back of my mind almost every other day. The Haim sisters really know how to write a strong guitar part and that coupled with their intense harmonies and powerhouse voices make for a very enjoyable listen.
Favorite Songs: “The Steps”, “Leaning On You”, “FUBT.”
Taking a complete emotional turn, I have to mention Phoebe Bridgers' Punisher. This album is just so heartbreakingly amazing. Bridgers' lyrical stylings are just some of my absolute favorites. She finds a way to write about her experiences in life in a way that has this casual melancholy that is just so special. Her ongoing metaphors on this album were just so gut-wrenching. Comparing a lover who tries so hard but just misses the mark to a dog with a bird in its mouth is just a level of genius. Bridgers also brings some metaphors from her first album Stranger in the Alps into play. I just loved listening to this album when I was feeling down because Bridgers' music just allows you to marinate in those feelings without it becoming overwhelming. She just makes sad music that holds your hand and gives you a shoulder to cry on.
Favorite Songs: “Punisher,” “Chinese Satellite,” “ICU.”
Despite having come out in 2019, Harry Styles' Fine Line was on repeat for me this year. It's no secret I am a fan of Styles' work and just what he puts out into the world in general. His lifestyle of kindness is something we all need. On Fine Line, he really allowed himself to create and have fun. He takes bits and pieces of his favorite artists' works and adds his own 21st-century rockstar flair. He opens the door on his emotions and writes lyrics that are so honest you feel as though you have just stumbled along into his personal journal. This album provided me with so many fun dance moments as well as much needed comfort this year. Honestly, how can you be sad when THE Harry Styles is telling us that "we'll be alright" through a song filled with musical swells that just take you along for the ride? Now more than ever I am grateful for his spirit.
Favorite Songs: “Cherry,” “Sunflower Vol. 6,” “Fine Line.”
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Taylor Swift's folklore and the newly released evermore. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I only became a fan of Swift's music this year after years of thinking myself much too cool for it. I started this year listening to Lover, Speak Now and Red and marveling at just how good of a storyteller she is. She leaves no turn unturned when it comes to putting all her emotions into her songs. I learned about her huge lead-ups in terms of albums and how she is known for creating different eras of herself. You can imagine my surprise when she dropped two surprise albums this year that included what I wholeheartedly believe is her best work. Choosing more of an indie sound, she strips away all the show and allows her lyrics to shine. These sister albums are two halves of the same coin. With folklore providing this youthful nostalgia and evermore giving you older reflective tones. Swift saved 2020 with these two.
Favorite Songs: “cardigan,” “august,” “peace / tolerate it,” “happiness,” “marjorie.”