Arts and Entertainment

From Anderson Paak. to ZUU: The Best Albums of 2019

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Issue 7, Volume 110

By Shivali Korgaonkar, Morris Raskin 

10: ZUU - Denzel Curry


After breaking into the mainstream Hip-hop scene back in 2015 with his hit anthem “Ultimate,” Denzel Curry has been an undeniable force driving the genre with every new project he releases. Since then, fans have constantly been hungry to know where Curry will go next. This year’s answer: he’s gonna have some fun.

“ZUU,” Curry’s latest project, is an homage to his Miami roots. The 24-year-old rapper reminisces upon the city, warts and all, and presents it to the listener through a mix of high energy beats and an addictive flow that can get even the biggest skeptic’s foot tapping. Curry lets us in on his history, the lessons he learned from his parents, his rise to the top, and the Miami traditions that shaped him into the man he is today. The album perfectly encapsulates Curry’s essence and shows that he’s not afraid to take a step back from all the politics that filled his previous work and have a good time in Miami.

9: CASE STUDY 01 - Daniel Caesar


Known for his love ballads and dreamy beats, Daniel Caesar steps out of his comfort zone with this album while still paying tribute to his original style. The album opens with “ENTROPY,” an accurate representation of the underlying theme: love is naturally chaotic. Caesar introduces the album with slow, moody songs that showcase his incredible vocal skill and comforting lyrics. Alongside John Mayer’s airy guitar, Caesar sings “Isn't it an irony? / The things that inspire me / They make me bleed,” displaying a sense of pain that resonates with listeners throughout the song. “ARE YOU OK?” is a clear example of Caesar’s increase in musical maturity. This outro unexpectedly transitions out of an R&B melody into a faded voice that raps over a modern synth beat. Each song guides listeners to unknown territory in their memories that only Caesar would be able to draw out through his wispy voice and soothing chimes.

8: Ventura - Anderson .Paak

Best Songs: Come Home, King James

Anderson .Paak’s funky throwback vibe makes him incomparable to any other modern artist. His tone crosses into Hip-hop and R&B while his happy beats place him in the pop and funk genres. One can’t help but smile when .Paak’s snappy grooves kick in. His personality shines through each song. In “King James,” he discusses political events; in “Twilight,” he explains the pangs of growing up. .Paak’s words feel deeply personal and impactful because of the charm he displays while cradling each melody. The inability to place .Paak into a singular genre widens his fanbase to include listeners with any musical interest.

7: III - The Lumineers

Best Songs: Jimmy Sparks, Donna

On their 3rd album “III,” the Lumineers get back to what they’re best at: storytelling. Throughout the 10 song effort, the folk band tells the tale of a family ripping at the seams. Split into three parts, the album details the lives of Junior, Jimmy, and Donna Sparks, each from a different generation of the same family. Navigating drug addiction, alcoholism, abuse, and depression with careful prose and wistful acoustic guitars, “III” relentlessly tugs at the listener's heartstrings. Just when the world thought that folk music was dying, the Lumineers proved that it is not dying as much as it is evolving. Paired with a corresponding music video for each song that’s meant to deepen the meaning behind each riveting tale, “III” is truly a once-in-a-generation folk album.

6: So Much Fun - Young Thug

Best Songs: The London, Just How It Is, Hot

“So Much Fun” is a prime example of the beauty that comes from integrating bright minds in the music industry. The numerous collaborations included on this album make every song an exciting and unique experience. Not knowing whether Machine Gun Kelly’s lyrical language or Travis Scott’s autotuned rap is next pulls you even closer. Young Thug’s ability to have fun is reflected in his music and, thus, forces listeners to move along to the beat. While many rappers are unable to draw the line between songwriting and boasting about their money, Young Thug has found the perfect balance. With numerous hits like “Hot,” “The London,” and “Bad Bad Bad,” Young Thug has found the sweet spot between modern “flex” culture and genuinely good music.

5: Norman F***ing Rockwell - Lana Del Rey

Best Songs: Norman F***ing Rockwell, Happiness is a Butterfly, Bartender

Unlike the work of the late painter for which the album was named, bustling with activity and exuberance, “Norman F***ing Rockwell” strips each song and moment down to its core. Through every rueful ballad, Rey lets a little bit of her heart loose, gracing the listener with her soft voice and skillful cadence. The instrumentation is minimalistic, usually consisting of solely piano and voice so that Lana can cut through directly to the observer. There is no complicated production or pounding beats to draw the listener in; Lana Del Rey knows she doesn’t need that. For the most part, she’s just a girl with an aching heart, a piano, and a longing to be heard.

4: Father of the Bride - Vampire Weekend

Best Songs: This Life, Married in a Gold Rush

After six years of silence, Vampire Weekend is finally back. On their newest project, “Father of the Bride,” the band uses its classic indie and alternative rock blend to expand upon its traditional sound and march fearlessly into new territory. Spanning a lengthy 18 songs, Vampire Weekend shows that they’re fully capable of making every minute of the near hour-long experience a fresh and purposeful take on how they see the world. Frontman Ezra Koenig guides us through ballads, anthems, and romps alike, displaying his and the band’s ever-present versatility. Lyrically, this album covers numerous important topics from the fragility of race, the fading link between money and happiness, lost love, and everything in between. “Father of the Bride” is a ceaseless joyride that is a good time just waiting to be had.

3: When I Get Home - Solange

Best Songs: My Skin My Logo, Dreams, Almeda

Solange’s “When I Get Home” draws you into a spiritual journey. As soon as you press play, the beginning and end of each song are ambiguous. By the end of the album, it’s hard to describe what you just listened to but easy to say you’d listen to it again. Every single song plays a crucial role in the storyline Solange builds within 39 minutes. With 19 songs, this piece diverts from your average radio-generated album. Solange utilizes six tracks as interludes to connect her ideas while never shifting from the album’s themes. In “My Skin My Logo,” listeners are taken on a journey guided by Solange’s laughter, jazzy drums, and Gucci Mane’s unique voice. Her ability to combine R&B, jazz, and Hip-hop purposefully exemplifies the talent Solange has in music production that honors her melodic vocals and slow rhythm.

2: IGOR - Tyler, The Creator


Tyler, The Creator is nothing if not creative. However, the rapper pushed the boundaries of the Hip-hop genre to a new personal extreme with his latest effort, using his past albums as jumping-off points to form entirely new ideas and concepts. In what could go down as one of the greatest breakup albums ever, Tyler finds acceptance and closure for a lost love over 12 eccentric tracks, using big synths and boisterous drum beats to propel his unique voice to new heights. On tracks like “NEW MAGIC WAND” and “I THINK,” Tyler, The Creator achieves a powerful balance between his quirkiness, high profile collaborations (including a special appearance from Kanye West), distinctive arpeggiators, and as GQ puts it, “so much bass it could shake an elephant.” Tyler proudly boasts that all songs on the album were written, produced, and arranged by himself in a text block on the album cover itself. But who can blame him? If you proved a mass of critics and naysayers wrong and created an album of this caliber, wouldn’t you want to flaunt it?

1: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? - Billie Eilish

Best Songs: when the party’s over, xanny, all the good girls go to hell

And finally, we arrive at our number one pick, Billie Eilish’s debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Now, regardless of what we put at #1, there could never be unanimous agreement. However, it is likely that this choice for the top spot will likely raise even more eyebrows than usual. This begs the question: “Why would it not be this album?”

With “When We All Fall Asleep,” Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell crafted a dark and raw look into the mental state of a woman finding herself in the 21st century. Every element of this project, from the vocals, to the production, to the lyrics, burst at the seams with personality and lends Eilish a unique sound that differentiates her from Alternative contemporaries such as Lorde and Lana Del Rey. At no point in the project does Billie divert from her vision, displaying absolute focus throughout the album. Whether it be through muted pianos and light percussion, pumping bass and chopped up vocals, or ukulele and expert sampling, Billie and Finneas have created an album that can speak to people across generations and please even the hardest of music critics. Its unanimous appeal, complex vulnerability, masterful production, and absolute charisma are what truly earn this deserving album the #1 spot.

Honorable Mentions:

Lover - Taylor Swift

Bandana - Freddie Gibbs/Madlib

Neotheater - AJR

Western Stars - Bruce Springsteen

Magdalene - FKA Twigs

JESUS IS KING - Kanye West

thank you, next - Ariana Grande