For five years I have memorialized the albums that spoke to me in a year-end blog post. The record of 2019 shows that I invested my time into no more than four albums and one EP. That’s it? That’s it.
Out of the five recordings that meant something to me in 2019, here are the top five.
5. Coconut Oil (Lizzo, 2016)
Favorite Song: Good as Hell
Lizzo performed “Good as Hell” on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee the night after DJT was elected. It was a moment of light in a week of heartache.
I returned to this song in the context of Coconut Oil; the EP deserves to be listened to in its entirety. It has all the elements we love from Lizzo. It is empowering, sexy, honest, funny, and heartfelt.
4. The Calendar Album (The Zach and the Jess, 2019)
Favorite Song: Fingers to the Sky
Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast is auditory magic. Zach and Jess create a musical on the spot, complete with interesting characters, narrative plot, entertaining songs, wordplay, and comedy.
In The Calendar Album, the Zach and the Jess use their talents for creating memorable tunes, playing with language, and heightening comedic premises to create a dozen perfect songs. The songs they improvise are fantastic, but the songs they create, polish, and fine-tune are masterpieces.
3. All Things Must Pass (George Harrison, 1970)
Favorite Song: Beware of Darkness
Let me be crystal clear: All Things Must Pass is my favorite album of all time, and my pick for The Best Album Ever Recorded. I have loved it since my personal Beatlemania branched out into a burning eternal love for George (around eighth grade).
ATMP was not new to me this year, but it consumed me for a large part of it. I could not stop listening to it for weeks, and I wasn’t sure if I ever would. As I have said elsewhere, out of infinite universes, we are lucky to live in one where All Things Must Pass exists and we get to listen to it whenever we want.
2. Cuz I Love You (Lizzo, 2019)
Favorite Song: Soulmate
I can’t separate Cuz I Love You from three tweets:
Karen Kilgariff posting a link to “Juice” and saying “I simply can’t stop listening to this.”
This introduced me to the lead single from the album. Soon I was listening to it on repeat, and force-feeding it to everyone within earshot. Somehow, the full album was able to live up to this unpunchable jam, loaded to the gills with songs that make me dance, sing, cry, and feel powerful.
Dave Holmes describing the album as “Weapons-grade positivity.”
Lizzo’s positivity is most obvious to me when I listen to Cardi B. I still love Invasion of Privacy, but I feel those songs nurture unhealthy impulses toward competition, anger, and dependency. Lizzo empowers through inner strength, without comparison or spite.
Sophia Benoit pointing out that the linchpin of the album is crying.
Crying and behaving “like a girl” are not actions to hide, stifle, or shame; Lizzo reclaims them as feats of strength. We show our gratitude by believing her and following her example.
1. Tapestry (Carole King, 1971)
Favorite Song: So Far Away
I listened to Tapestry for the first time this year in an effort to familiarize myself with the full version of the Gilmore Girls theme song. Initially I thought it was a cover album, and I was delighted and amazed to learn what everyone already knew—Carole King is simply a powerhouse songwriter. Every track bleeds honest emotion, be it mental anguish or overflowing affection. Except, perhaps, the baffling title track, which I am content to forget.
Bonus Track: “Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley
While reading Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, the half-remembered chorus of this classic rock radio staple ran through my head. Listening to it with intention, the earworm became an obsession. My anti-Eagles ethic was overcome, and I’m the better for it.
I spent 2019 distracted. I preferred to listen to podcasters talk than to listen to music. To tip the scales back toward music I have to open my heart to the experience of new art. I will try.