When I was writing the post talking about the most promising upcoming releases of 2020 I had a feeling the year has a chance to top the awesomeness of 2019. Only one month in and I am already convinced this is prone to happen.
We saw some albums and singles by promising act dominating various genres (and proving genre classification is becomeing irrelevant at the same time) while giving us some high quality music. In this post, I want to talk about part of those releases – sadly, I cannot fit all of the great music of the month in one post, but there are some things I cannot allow myself to stay silent about.
I was honestly overwhelmed by the amount of awesomeness this month. Writing this post proved harder than I imagined and once again an idea that started as a form of light content got out of control easily. But honestly, not my fault everyone decided to put out killer albums and tracks this month, sorry, not sorry.
Regardless, I have some things to say about some albums and a few singles and I hope you find your cup of tea amongst the overflowing musical delights this month. There is so much going on in some of the new music it is extremely inspirational to observe. We are lucky to hear it and it is a pleasantly crushing phenomenon.
With such a great start of 2020, I cannot wait to find out what else is waiting for us. Without further ado, let’s dive into my favorite releases of the month.
Halsey – Manic
Manic as a title fits this piece of art perfectly. It is the first album that Halsey has written in a manic (instead of a depressive) episode, it contains a diversity of musical influences, and it delves deeper into the artist’s mind and soul than any of her previous releases dared to enter.
It took me some time to get into the album and fully understand (and appreciate) the idea but I can confidently say it is a masterpiece.
It is no surprise Halsey decided to present the album as the first Ashley record (her real name) as it is the first one written entirely based on her real life and experiences – there is no fictional or metaphorical overwriting. The focus is 100% on Ashely herself and she gracefully introduces us to her troubled mind, painful growth and self-development as well as learning how to let anger and frustration go.
As she herself explains in an interview with Zane Lowe, the album was supposed to be an angry and aggressive one (as the single Nightmare suggested – it never made it to the album for exactly this reason), however when she started writing she felt liberated of any residual anger and decided to focus on different feelings.
This is the deepest Halsey has ever let us get to her personal life, troubles, contemplations, and regret. Going through realizations about mortality, past actions, love and relationships, personal development, and most importantly – self-love and self-value the album is filled with words of wisdom enhanced by examples from the artist’s life.
Completing it leaves you with a feeling of freedom, increased self-value, determination, and hope. A truly splendid record, Manic also shows the vocal abilities of Halsey once again and proves that there is absolutely no genre she cannot dominate – country, punk, rock, and pop are equally conquered on this one.
Poppy – I Disagree
I Disagree is a statement and the mark of a new chapter for Poppy. As she herself defines it the album at its essence is a message of empowerment and a reminder to not take “no” or “you can’t” for the end of a discussion. The artist steps out of the box the music industry (and her creative partners) tried to locker her inside and taps into her potential full-power which has led to the production of some seriously good music.
The album combines heavy metal, gentle singing, powerful messages, and maybe even a declaration of war with the status quo that the industry is trying to maintain. Poppy finally completely discards the robotic persona she used to maintain before and releases herself from any limitations. The result is clear.
Many topics are explored during the duration of the ten songs on I Disagree and many references and remarks to past events are evident. Hypocrisy, religion, human relationships, creative freedom, and negative mindsets are explored in-depth surprisingly well with the artist’s minimal lyrics and diverse, experimental sound.
I Disagree is looking into different specters of music – influences from the likes of Ghost, Marilyn Manson, and Baby Metal fuse with pop, rock, and indie elements to create something completely new and utterly intriguing. I see the album as a must-hear from start to end, it definitely gives 2020 a great start and brings something fresh on the table.
Selena Gomez – Rare
It wouldn’t feel right if I ignored the biggest pop album of the month, especially considering I have been following the work of Selena Gomez for years.
Rare was long-anticipated and hyped by both the artist and her fans as a new page in her personal and professional development. And it proved itself to be one.
The record is focused around a rocky relationship that was hard to let go of and pays attention in detail to all the consequences, pain, learned lessons, and eventual liberation from a heavy feeling. Gomez introduces the new chapter of her life and musical development gracefully. The anticipation for what is to come is evident.
Empowering anthems of self-love and appreciation are all around the tracklist starting with the opener Rare which serves as a powerful reminder to value yourself and not let anyone take you for granted.
As mentioned, the songs on the album present as a look back at a torturing relationship. Different tracks view different angles of the phenomenon and create a mix of ballad-like confessions, tear-jerking appreciation of hardships and good moments, and uplifting reminders that the best is yet to come. Gomez also openly exposes her vulnerabilities (Vulnerable) and embraces her weaknesses and mistakes in order to get closer to self-development and freedom from regret.
The album is pleasant and uplifting despite the majority of it focusing on something hurtful. Once again the negativity and pain are used as a building ground for a better future while extracting important lessons and carving reminders of self-value and courage. The overall upbeat sound in some of the songs (Dance Again, Look At Her Now f.x) combined with the confident vocals definitely contributes to the overall positive effect the album leaves in your mind and soul after you complete it.
Mac Miller – Circles
Mac Miller’s iconic “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” returned with my personal music highlight of the month. Circles is the posthumous album serving as a follow-up to 2018’s Swimming. A pleasant surprise for the millions of fans worldwide the album is extremely enjoyable yet it overflows with sadness and nostalgia.
Mac Miller’s concept was to represent the reality of life as a process of swimming in circles. When Swimming was released work on the follow-up was already in progress but sadly Mac was taken from the physical world way too soon and could not complete it himself.
The reason we are able to hear this masterpiece is Jon Brion – a close collaborator of Mac who was in on the plans for Circles and had access to some completed and other mid-progress pieces.
He definitely did a great job which preserves the unmistakable Mac Miller feel in the entire album and transmits the idea, feelings, and thoughts Mac had perfectly well. Circles is an intriguing ride showing us the naked mind and soul of the rapper and proving he was indeed in the peak of his self-discovery and potential.
Existential highs and lows are explored in-depth with the casual easy-going manner Mac used to excel in. Despite the heavy themes generally prevailing over uplifting and inspirational tracks (yes, they are there and they are strong) the overall feel you are left with after the end of the album is hope and confidence for a brighter future.
The record is the best “last goodbye” we could have hoped for and a splendid development what Swimming started.
My full review of Circles will be up next week, stay tuned.
VUKOVI – Fall Better
I have been eagerly waiting for this one ever since the first time I heard Vukovi during their support of PVRIS in 2017. I went to the show without knowing who they were and I was literally blown away by the energy, passion, and dedication I witnessed.
I had high expectations for the full-length judging by previous releases and the new singles and yet I was impressed by the coherence, the great arrangement, and stunning sound (both in terms of vocals and instrumentals).
The album starts with a fitting warning introduction smoothly flowing into one of the lead singles Violent Minds. Saying it is a thundering start of a great album is an understatement. The tracklist continues to bring superior rock instrumentals consistently while Janine’s vocals and lyrics match them with stunning precision and emotion.
Similarly to every good album, the more carefully you listen the deeper it gets. Fall Better represents a state of mind, a fight for sanity, and a determination to emerge victorious in the internal battles with yourself.
The best part about it is you can listen to it on the go and drown into the well-executed vocals and melodies or devote to it fully and dive into the lyrics and stories behind the songs. And they are there, better than Vukovi have ever been so far.
A true explosion of quality punk-rock Fall Better is a must-hear setting the foundations of 2020’s rock as solid as possible.
Hayley Williams – Simmer
2020 is the year we are witnessing something a lot of people dreamed of for years – the debut of Paramore’s Hayley Williams as a solo artist.
Simmer is the first single and it is as strong as it could have potentially been. After the extremely raw and transparent After Laughter Hayley continues to explore troubling mind states and gets deeper into some personal struggles. The addition of illustrative metaphors and a stunning video make the song one of the best we have seen this year.
Hayley explores delicate and painful topics including anger, frustration, insecurity, doubt, and anxiety to excruciating precision. Those things are also clearly visible not only in the lyrics and instrumentals but in the artist’s voice and way of delivery. The song is utterly powerful and emotion-invoking – beautifully done in all aspects.
The expectations for Petals For Armor are set sky-high with Simmer and I have a feeling we will be able to look into Hayley’s mind even deeper.
The video is telling a story that continues in an interlude and possibly in the upcoming singles
Check the informative interview regarding Simmer and the album here:
Tove Lo – Bikini Porn
Tove Lo surprised listeners with a new single radiating vibes of positivity, appreciating, and genuinely good times.
The song is as catchy as it gets and relies on narrative and metaphors around enjoying your time and getting your mind off everyday problems. With great lyrics, melodic structure, and vocal execution (and a provocative music video as expected form the artist) I can confidently classify Bikini Porn as a summer hit released in January.
I found out Tove Lo released one more single this month and I think it is owning it too so here you go.
A more emotional and dramatic song with a sensual tone and lots of great expression of feelings, definitely one of her beset.
Jessie Reyez – No Sweat
Jessie Reyez announced her debut album – Before Love Came To Kill Us will be released on the 27th of March. She also revealed two singles – No Sweat and Love In The Dark with drastically different sound and vibe yet both equally effective and delightful.
No Sweat has the Bikini Porn fresh summer song vibes for a melody and empowering, uplifting lyrics praising independence and personal power. A good mix of easy-going melodies and lyrics of substance the song is super catchy and a good reminder of Jessie’s abilities to operate in different styles.
Love In The Dark has a different feel as it is way more serious, emotional, and raw. It has acoustic ballad-like instrumentals and lyrics delving on unconditional love and appreciation. Both songs are extremely powerful and definitely serve as proof we should be very excited about Before Love Came To Kill Us.
Counterfeit – The New Insane
Counterfeit continue their musical experimentation and development with two new releases – The New Insane and 11:44. Both have alternative rock as a foundation and both take it places to create something with high value and impact. Full of energy, shattering riffs, and vocals mixing beautiful singing with post-hardcore inspired growls the tracks remind of the talent and potential of Counterfeit full-power.
Great lyrical content with provocative essence is naturally included to make the experience even better.
Hollywood Undead – Empire
Hollywood Undead also give us another taste of their upcoming album –New Empire Vol 1 scheduled for 14th of February. Empire, like the previous singles (Time Bomb, Already Dead), hints the band is going back to their original influence and sound with a mix of modern beats and, of course, relevant issues discussed.
On-point lyrics merge with aggressive and badass delivery from the majority of the band members in an eruption of hard rock mixed with modern sounds and fast-paced rap. The song is a literal typhoon and makes the hype for New Empire Vol 1 even bigger.
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