Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
On my personal blog, I listed my favorite albums and songs of the year. In 2019, I had 27 records and 27 additional songs that I thought were worth noting. I whittled that list down to the one below. Hopefully, those reading this will find something of interest in this collection. It may not be as expertly crafted as a veteran music critic might do, but I think it’s entertaining and maybe a little enlightening.
10. HEARD IT IN A PAST LIFE by Maggie Rogers – This album is her debut and it got her her first-ever, Grammy nomination at the 62nd Grammy Awards. She’s up for Best New Artist. She’s gotten a lot of accolades from magazines like The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. The site Consequence of Sound dubbed her “The new queen of indie pop.” This coming from a 25-year-old who started out playing the banjo in folk circles. Dannii Leivers of New Music Express says, “Many of these tracks are rooted in nature. Rogers has a thing for sneaking hidden samples of natural sounds into her songs. The result is an organic, earthy vibe.” She’s from Easton, Maryland, and has been featured several times on WBOC, including a segment on DelmarvaLife.
9. YOU WILL NOT DIE by Nakhane – I first seen this artist in the film The Wound (Inxeba), which was the official submission from South Africa to the 90th Academy Awards. He’s an openly gay singer and songwriter who has a classical music background, but was inspired by artists like George Michael and Radiohead. His current album though has a sound somewhere between David Bowie and Nina Simone. Reportedly, the album was the impetus for Madonna to create her current album Madame X.
8. WALK THROUGH FIRE by Yola – She was also nominated for Best New Artist at the 62nd Grammy Awards, opposite Maggie Rogers and others. She’s also listed in three other categories, including Best Americana Album for this record, which is technically her debut. The Afro-Britsh musician started out singing back-up for artists like Massive Attack and Iggy Azalea. She released this album on Dan Auerbach’s label. Auerbach is the vocalist and guitarist for blues-rock group, The Black Keys. He helped co-write a few of the songs here. Auerbach is one of my favorite rock musicians and this album certainly embodies a bit of his Midwestern, slightly Southern, soulful sound.
7. FRONT PORCH by Joy Williams – This record is up for Best Folk Album at the 62nd Grammy Awards. She’s not an artist that I’ve known a lot about over the years, but this is her sixth studio album. Some, like Chris Conaton of PopMatters, believe this to be her best work in her near, 20-year career. I can’t speak to that, but I can attest to being swept up in the beauty of this record.
6. JAIME by Brittany Howard – Because of a song on this record, she’s up for two prizes at the 62nd Grammy Awards. She’s up for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. This album is her debut, but she’s not new to the game. She was the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the group, Alabama Shakes. That group has been nominated nine times for the Grammy, including Album of the Year. The group won four times. Much of that was due to Howard. Not bad for a girl who used to work for the U.S. Postal Service. Her album is named after her sister who died at age 13 of retinal cancer, a cancer that Howard herself also had but survived, leaving her partially blind.
5. FATHER OF THE BRIDE by Vampire Weekend – This was a number-one album in 2019 and is the first of two, number-one albums on my list. It’s nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. It’s also the first of two on my list to be up for Album of the Year. It’s the first record done without Rostam Batmanglij, who did contribute to a couple of the songs on this album. David Fricke in Rolling Stone magazine says, “Vampire Weekend now look like the smartest guys in the room, marshaling a sumptuous, emotionally complex music perfect in this pop moment.”
4. HAPPINESS BEGINS by Jonas Brothers – This is the other, number-one album on my list. It’s the third, number-one album from the Jonas Brothers. The lead single from this record is “Sucker” and it was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 62nd Grammy Awards. “Sucker” is also the first, number-one single for the boy band, which first formed in 2005 when all three members were only teenagers.
3. THIS LAND by Gary Clark Jr. – The Texas musician has been working on films and in television for over a decade. He’s shared the stage with a slew of blues and rock legends from B.B. King to Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. His current record is up for four prizes at the 62nd Grammy Awards, including Best Contemporary Blues Album. The titular song is incredible in that he takes on the policies of President Donald Trump, as his music video for the titular song addresses the racism that has come along with the current administration.
2. WHEN I GET HOME by Solange – The R&B singer is also from Texas. A lot of the critics say that this record is an ode to her Texan home of Houston. Yes, she is the younger sister to huge pop star, Beyoncé, but most people agree that she has made a distinct name for herself and has artistically evolved beyond her sister. I agree with those at Entertainment Weekly, who call her record, “A stunning effort,” or those at musicOMH.com who say, “In a year where R&B and hip hop have proved the most innovative and original genres, Solange has delivered a brilliantly crafted record that places her right at the top.”
1. CUZ I LOVE YOU (DELUXE) by Lizzo – The R&B and Hip Hop artist isn’t from Texas, but she did study classical music at the University of Houston. She was inspired by rapper Jay-Z for her stage name. Yet, the 31-year-old from Detroit sounds like she’s also inspired from all those Motown artists from yesteryear. Hers is the second record on my list to be up for Album of the Year. She’s nominated for eight prizes at the 62nd Grammy Awards, the most of any artist this year. It’s my hope that she wins most, if not all the prizes that she can.