In 2016 we rated Angel Olsen’s last album, My Woman, as our favourite album of the year. To quote part of that review, “we can’t wait to see where Angel Olsen goes next”. We finally got our chance to hear the follow up and like Sharon Van Etten earlier in 2019, Olsen has incorporated more synths and electronics into her work along with a lot of orchestral strings. The six minute “Lark” has a pulsating beat through the verses before the chorus roars and the second verse accuses “the way you scream like something else is the matter”.
“Too Easy” has a dreamy chorus with whispered vocals expressing that “some things happen for a reason; cancel all these plans I’m dreaming”. “Spring” sees Olsen singing about how friends are growing older and priorities are changing to the sound of a broken carousel. First single “All Mirrors” could have been released in the early 80s with its brittle percussion and 80s synths. “New Love Cassette” captures the best of the album’s moments with a minimal beat and synth stabs, Olsen’s voice is haunting and creates a dark/moody atmosphere.
On the flipside, “Impasse” is harsher musically and “Endgame” is a bit slow and sluggish. Better is the acoustic guitar on “Summer” that sounds a bit like First Aid Kit at their best. Olsen has always had a touch of nostalgia in her sound and that shines on tracks like “Tonight” and album closer “Chance” that sounds like a 60s torch song. In the course of expanding her sound, Angel Olsen has released another compelling album that takes several listens to uncover all that she is doing.
10. Giggs (Feat. Donae’o) – Lock Doh: The last we heard of Donae’o was on the b-side of The Streets “Fit But You Know It” single. This track instantly takes us back to club nights in London from many years ago. In the last few years, we remember those nights fondly but this one actually makes us want to go back and stand in a darkened corner of a club, pound back vodka shots while shuffling to the beat and staring at our feet.
9. Angel Olsen – Intern: It’s almost a case of which song from the album to pick. While most others have gone with the great “Shut Up Kiss Me” as THE track on the album, we always gravitated towards the opening song on My Woman. Driving to work in the dark at 7AM on autumn mornings, barely awake, the lyrics “Still gotta wake up and be someone” always sounded just right.
8. case/lang/veirs – Best Kept Secret: In five years we have no idea how we will feel about most of the songs on this list. What we do know is this one will never fail to make us smile, shimmy our shoulders and sing along. “You’re the best kept secret in Silver lake…. ba da ba da ba da ba da ba”. Unabashedly, this kind of stuff is right up our alley.
7. French Montana (Feat. Kodak Black) – Lockjaw: In our house, the “got a monkey on our back” became a classic line when it was changed to “got a Michael on my back” . Much discussion has happened about what the lockjaw metaphor actually means but it doesn’t matter. Perhaps because it sounds like it could have come out in 1993, this is one of favourite rap tracks of the last few years.
6. The Strumbellas – Spirits: …But sometimes those beardy bands we mentioned at #13 put out some good songs! This is one of them. Infinitely catchy, The Strumbellas scored a big hit with “Spirits” which got us nodding in appreciation all throughout 2016.
5. Minor Victories – Folk Arp: Without fail, every time this track came on in the car we would have to look to see who it was. This beautiful song takes us back to the best of shoegaze pop from the 90s, with Rachel’s voice floating on top. Like a light summer rain that turns into a black thunder storm, the hushed whisper of the first half turns into a roar for the second.
4. Lil Yachty (Feat. Quavo, Skippa da Flippa, & Young Thug)– Minnesota: The piano hook could not be simpler, at times it doesn’t rhyme and Yachty’s voice sounds like SNL’s Brian Fellows. However, the infectiousness of “it get cold like Minnesota” never fails to make us smile while we shout “I love my Motorola!!” 5x in a row for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
3. Hamilton Leithhauser + Rostam – A 1000 Times: The first single from the I Had a Dream album was a classy rock tune with extra sandpaper thanks to Leithauser’s voice. At times sounding like a lost Mercury Rev number: there is a gentle swing of the first bridge and the soft vocals at the beginning before giving way to energy then weariness all help create an atmosphere that is easy to get lost in. A rollicking number for those of us on the wrong (good?) side of 40.
2. Laura Gibson – Damn Sure: For anyone who’s been in a failed relationship that they were so sure would work out, against all odds and probably ignoring everyone else’s question marks, this track hits like a sledgehammer. But no matter how hard the break-up is, we eventually get through it and start to visit museums again. Somehow, it always works out… if we let it.
1. Rae Sremmurd (Feat Gucci Mane) – Black Beatles: When we first heard this track in August, it instantly became a strong contender for our song of the year. Little did we know that 4 months later every 12 year old in the city would be playing it on their lousy cell phone speakers. “That girl is a real crowd pleaser” became lodged in our heads for months. Elongating words to make it fit the music is charming and the lyrics make it all the more memorable – “like clockwork, I blow it all then get some more”, “she thinks she love me I think she trolling”, “euro step around a hater like I’m Rondo”, and the one that still baffles us “so much money on the floor we buyin’ school clothes”. Even after it inspired a meme and we heard it 1500 times, “Black Beatles” never fails to shine.