By: Ahad Ghani, SFU Student
It’s been a strong year for music, and we’re only halfway there. We’ve received comeback albums from Lady Gaga and The Weeknd, a posthumous album from Mac Miller, a debut solo album from Paramore’s lead vocalist Hayley Williams, Charli XCX’s album recorded entirely in social isolation, and much more. However, some stood out more than others and deserve your immediate attention. Here are the best albums released this year, so far.
Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa
On her second studio album, the 2019 Grammy recipient for Best New Artist manages to avoid the sophomore slump with one of the best pop records in recent memory. Future Nostalgia allows Lipa to explore a far more mature and cohesive sound compared to that of her debut album. Despite being heavily influenced by 70s disco and 80s dance-pop, it manages to sound current. Clocking in at just 37 minutes, Future Nostalgia delivers pop banger after another, and leaves the listener longing for more.
Released amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the album managed to float above the noise, and will most likely continue to be a topic of conversation for the remainder of the year.
Highlights: “Physical”, “Love Again”, “Levitating”
Manic by Halsey
Manic is Halsey’s most personal and introspective album to date. It addresses toxic relationships, heartbreak, loneliness, and her struggle with bipolar disorder. The album explores a variety of genres including electro-pop, hip-hop, country, and alt-rock. On “Suga’s Interlude,” featuring BTS member Suga, she embraces South Korean rap, while “3am” is reminiscent of early Avril Lavigne.
Halsey delivers her strongest record yet with her third studio album. Despite none of the songs sounding alike, the album is cohesive — largely due to the singer’s vulnerability and creativity that shine throughout the album. It’s not the most commercial record of the year, but it’s undeniably a must-listen.
Highlights: “Finally // beautiful stranger”, “3am”, “Alanis’ Interlude”
SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama
SAWAYAMA serves as Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama’s debut album. The record is both unique and fun. It shows why the singer is destined for mainstream success. While tracks such as “Love Me 4 Me” and “Bad Friend” are pop-leaning, she shocks listeners with “STFU,” a track heavily influenced by metal and rock.
“Akasaka Sad” addresses Sawayama’s disconnect from her Japanese heritage, “STFU” serves as a response to the racism the singer has endured, while on “XS,” the singer appears to be mocking capitalism. SAWAYAMA is exactly the record we currently need to be listening to.
Highlights: “XS”, “Bad Friend”, “Akasaka Sad”
Cape God by Allie X
On her second studio album, Canadian alt-pop singer Allie X embraces a far darker sound on while still retaining elements from her previous work. The lyrics address issues such as depression and past relationships which listeners can easily relate to. Despite the subject matter, the record manages to sound fun and radio-friendly.
“Super Duper Party People” is an electro-pop party anthem, and on “Devil I Know,” the singer sings about her inner demons. Troye Sivan features on the ballad “Love Me Wrong” while Mitski appears on “Susie Save Your Love.”
Highlights: “Learning in Public”, “Susie Save Your Love”, “June Gloom”