For as long as I can remember, I have kept track of my life experiences through the albums I was listening to at the time. I love the fact that music has the ability to transport me to different times and places; for example, the album Landmark by Hippo Campus will always remind me of how I felt driving with the windows down the summer before my last year of high school. Similarly, Hypochondriac by The Frights always takes me back to jam sessions with my best friend during our first month as roommates at Penn.
As 2019 comes to an end, I’ve been looking back at the albums that soundtracked my year. Below are 5 of my favorite albums of 2019, all released by female artists.
*Albums are listed in order of release dates.*
- Heard It in a Past Life – Maggie Rogers
Released: January 18
After gaining popularity due to the hit single “Alaska” (2016), this debut album was highly anticipated by many, including myself. If I had to describe Heard It in a Past Life in three words, I would say it is electrifying, whimsical, and infectious. The songs on this album are somehow a mixture of organic/earthy and electronic/synthy — and it just works. Rogers’ voice is full and strong, with a perfect folk-indie edge and breathiness on all the right notes. This album is mostly filled with songs that make me want to dance around my room. However, the lyrics carry more emotional depth than you would think after an initial listen. With songs about feeling lost, being hopelessly in love, and having personal revelations, Heard It in a Past Life is just as suitable for introspective nights in bed. If you enjoy indie-pop or folk-tronica (or even if you’re just looking for a new, refreshing sound), this album is definitely worth a listen!
- Inner Monologue (Parts 1 & 2) – Julia Michaels
Released: January 24 & June 28
Although not a traditional album, I felt like these EPs deserved a spot on this list – especially because they served as the soundtrack for so much of my summer this year. Instead of releasing a full-length album all at once, Julia Michaels has been releasing a cohesive body of music through multiple EPs. Filled with both Michaels’ infectious melodies and truthful lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to, Inner Monologue Parts 1 and 2 truly allow the listener a glimpse into Michaels’ head. Her writing makes songs feel personal and relatable, even if you haven’t gone through the exact experiences. These EPs are extremely vulnerable and intimate, and include many songs regarding anxieties and insecurities as well as toxic relationships – though these themes are perfectly balanced by a few nostalgic love songs. Julia Michaels has also teased at a third part to Inner Monologue, so I recommend giving these two a listen and getting excited for Part 3!
“Into You” (Part 1)
“Falling For Boys” (Part 2)
“Shouldn’t Have Said It” (Part 2)
- How Do You Love? – The Regrettes
Released: August 9
A change of pace from the previous two albums, The Regrettes’ punk-influenced, garage band style in How Do You Love? is perfect if you’re looking for something a little less pop-influenced. The band’s lyrics are playful and quirky, and though she is only 19, lead singer Lydia Knight is a rockstar. Her voice is deep, raspy, and rough around the edges, though in the most controlled way. I always find it refreshing when an artist allows their music to be vulnerable. In the band’s debut album, Feel Your Feelings Fool! (2017), Knight emphasized her independence as a woman. Though How Do You Love? continues this theme, many of its songs actually work to break down Knight’s badass exterior. Knight is currently very happy with boyfriend Dylan Minnette, and this album definitely reflects the importance of this relationship in her life. Opening with an intimate spoken-word poem about love, this album perfectly balances the band’s rock sound with joyful and romantic lyrics.
“Has It Hit You?”
- Lover – Taylor Swift
Released: August 23
Love or hate her, there is no denying that Taylor Swift is one of the most successful popstars of our generation. Lover is her seventh studio album, and it shows that she is still releasing refreshing and original music. Swift has described Lover as a “celebration of love in all its complexity, coziness, and chaos,” and this album is exactly that. From the very beginning of her career, Swift has written songs that are simultaneously deeply personal -— directly referencing specific experiences from her relationships — and still relatable to listeners; Lover is no exception. I think it is safe to say that this album is the most vulnerable of her music so far. In true Taylor Swift fashion, Lover is filled with relationship songs; however, they come from a more intimate and mature space than her previous albums. Even so, Lover remains upbeat and fun – truly living up to, and even surpassing, the expectations I had for it.
“Death By A Thousand Cuts”
- Cheap Queen – King Princess
Released: October 25
Like Maggie Rogers, King Princess gained a following after the release of her hit single “1950” (2018). The success of “1950” meant Cheap Queen was a highly anticipated album. Openly gay and genderqueer, KP has become somewhat of an LGBTQ+ icon in the indie music scene since the release of “1950,” which tells the story of her infatuation with a girl, while also paying tribute to historical queer love, which had to be kept hidden. KP’s music is infused with a classic sound, almost reminiscent of the blues, but it is perfectly balanced with modern pop and R&B influence. Cheap Queen is sexy, sultry, and vulnerable. It explores love, lust, and loss, all while showing listeners what it is like to be a young adult experiencing these feelings for the first time. After all, KP is only 20, and she knows exactly how to write about early adulthood – a time full of simultaneous self-confidence and insecurity. In doing so, she creates a timeless album that extends across the boundaries of gender identity and sexual orientation, and is relatable to a universal audience.
“Watching My Phone”
“If You Think It’s Love”
In addition to these albums, one of my favorite song releases of the year was “Clementine,” by Halsey. It is a track off of her upcoming album, Manic, which is scheduled to come out on January 17, 2020. “Clementine” gives the listener insight into Halsey’s personal life in a more vulnerable way than her previous music. With lyrics playing with themes of insecurity and instability, Halsey leaves her prior façade of confidence and power behind. In fact, she has hinted at the fact that Manic will be her first album as Ashley, rather than Halsey (which acts as her anagrammaticized stage name) through the album’s cover. Fans noticed that “H3” and “A01” both appear on the cover art, and theorized that this meant Manic is Halsey’s third album, but Ashley’s first. Halsey confirmed this suspicion with a change of her Instagram bio, which reads “Hi, my name is Ashley. It’s nice to meet you.”
Although there have been no announcements about albums being released by other female artists I follow, I am hopeful for another year of amazing releases if Manic is setting the tone for 2020.