This past month’s music releases have started the new year (and decade) off extremely strong. Genres from hip-hop to metal to indie pop all have Album of the Year contenders, something that hasn’t happened in January for as long as I can remember. One or two good albums, yeah that’ll happen. But to have five great albums? That’s unprecedented.
Mac Miller’s death shook the musical world to its core. The rapper seemed like he was finally turning a corner and becoming all he could become when he overdosed, a fact that makes his newest and first posthumous album hit all the harder. On Circles, the world gets to see what Miller was thinking about and how he was feeling in his final days. Focusing on his life, Miller talks about disappointing loved ones, learning to accept life’s unavoidable brother death, and moving forward as a person. In fact, a lot of the lyrics make it seem as though, in some way, Miller knew his time was coming. “I’m always wonderin’ if it’ll feel like summer/I know maybe I’m too late, maybe I’ll make it there some other time/…There’s a whole lot more for me waiting/…then I’ll finally discover/..that it ain’t so bad.” Jon Brion did his best to fill in the production where he could, succeeding for the most part. This album is great all around, and if you’re ever worrying about death, you should put this on. Mac will remind you that it ain’t so bad. Stand out tracks include “Good News”, “Once a Day”, and “I Can See”.
Poppy, YouTube sensation turned pop star turned metal artist, dropped her debut album with Sumerian Records “I Disagree”. Most listeners would think to avoid this record, assuming that a soft pop voice and nu metal production would mix like whiskey and milk. Most people would be wrong. Somehow Poppy has made an amazing metal record and an amazing pop record, all in one glorious package. Poppy sings (and yells) about rebellion, self-discovery, and independence. For anyone following her, this shouldn’t come as a shock. Poppy had an ugly falling out with long-time creative partner Titanic Sinclair, and after staying relatively quiet about the situation she finally shares her thoughts, at least a little. Thankfully for her, it looks like she’s getting the last laugh. The weird, quiet, uncomfortable last laugh. “Stand out tracks include “I Disagree”, “Fill the Crown”, and “don’t Go Outside”.
New Jersey rapper 070 Shake released her debut album “Modus Vivendi”, and exceeded her lofty expectations. An overnight success thanks to a feature on Kanye West’s unbelievably beautiful song “Ghost Town”, Shake was seen as one of the most promising new artists in her genre. Releasing her debut two and a half years after the feature was a big mistake that resulted in her underperforming on the charts. Despite this, hopefully the album blows up because it is good. Like good good. Using the calm, misty production to her advantage, she creates an amazing atmosphere very few can artists could replicate. If you’ve been looking for a new artist in hip-hop to follow, make it Shake. You won’t regret it. Stand out tracks include “Pines”, “Microdosing”, and “Guilty Conscience”
“Watch This Liquid Pour Itself”
Okay. Kaya is far and away the smallest artist featured in this article, garnering 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, less than half the next lowest artist (Poppy). Kaya seems like your typical indie girl on first listen, sounding more than a reasonable amount like genre star Mitski. If you keep listening, however, you’ll find something a little different. Mixing humor with serious themes like mental illness sets her apart from the increasingly overcrowded pack. “You can peel an orange however you want/In the psych ward! (Psych ward!)”. Much of the album reads similar to these lyrics, and if that interests you, I suggest giving her a chance. Stand out tracks include “Ascend and try again” and “Psych Ward”
Halsey is a polarizing figure. Some hate her for what she says publicly and how she carries herself, while others praise her for the same exact things. Thanks to this and an ugly breakup with rapper G-Eazy, fans were eager to see what she’d spill in her new album. Little tea was spilled, however. The album comes across as a calm, calculated response from a person who has stepped back from her initial rage and took time to learn from her experience. Evidently, this is exactly what happened. Halsey tweeted about the music, saying, “I sat down to make a dark mean album and found nothing but calm, introspective, acceptance in my heart.” If you want a good breakup album, you still have one, it just might not be the one you were expecting. Stand out tracks include “3am” and “929”.
Header photo courtesy of 070 Shake’s Facebook page.