My Top 7 Albums From The Covid Years
So. After two tumultous years, we are finally getting out of the Covid era and yet all is not well. I’m appalled at the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and I pray for every resident of Ukraine.
Now. Music has been one of the brighter spots in the last two years, at least for me. This is my list of my top 7 albums from this period. (Read from the end if you want the typical 7–1 read. I chose not to waste time)
Let us Begin.
1. Græ by Moses Sumney
This is it. My favourite album of the last two years. Moses Sumney’s second studio album was released in 2020 as a two part album. The album follows themes of isolation, being ‘multiple’, and I am not even going to pretend that I pay attention to most of the lyrical details and nuances of this project. Sonically, it is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. The instrument palette and the vocals are of the absolute top level, and how they work together is exquisite.
This album has plenty of good individual songs as well, with me liking almost all the ‘songs’. The inverted commas because it has several interludes, which are cool, but I won’t be randomly recommending those in the near future. On Cut me, for example, the bass is on point, and the gorgeous transition from singing to saxophone through vocals is beyond words. Polly, the most pop influenced song on the album, is also the song that has the best vocal moment on the album, with Moses absolutely making me cry(in astonishment) on the section from “sea, sea, sea” to “you love dancing with me”, ‘Me in 20 Years’ came close second.
Finally, I want to take a moment to talk about two more songs: ‘Bless me’ and ‘Keeps me alive’. Both of these songs are incredibly brilliant, I am, however, lost on words to describe them, both literally and metaphorically. So I suggest just listening, not just these songs, but the whole album, obviously.
2. The Turning Wheel by Spellling
It is incredible that this album is only ending up on the second spot, but let me first convince you that it deserves to.
Let us now delve a bit deeper into the overall sonic side of the album. Starting from the opener, ‘Little Deer’, it has a very specific, consistent sound attached to it. The open, extravagant musical presentation is readily apparent in the first minute of the album, with it being just an instrumental building up to the song. The album is sprawling, brilliant, and vividly colourless (which is why this is also my favourite album cover of the last two years). The instrumentation on the album is diverse, AND flawless.
As for the songs, they are out of this world. For one particular reason, almost all of them stand out, which is that almost all of the songs on here have a unique, gorgeous musical passage, a progression, or a riff or anything that immediately strikes. There are three songs that I want to talk about specifically, the first being the title track, ‘Turning Wheel’. On this song, starting around the 2 minute mark, after the lyric “You want to set out for the cities, turning wheels, but I want to stay up on the hill”(which is a brilliantly sung lyric), the song goes on a beautiful instrumental passage which brings a smile to my face every time I listen to it, and trust me I listen to it a lot. Next, I want to bring up the brilliant synth riff on ‘Boys at School’. Yes, I could talk about the first 45 seconds, and it is great, too. But, just take yourself to the 1:37 mark. The progression, which I think qualifies as a riff, is absolutely magical. It is, indeed, my favourite moment in music for the decade so far. The rear end also has the guitar version of the riff, but I prefer the synth version.
The final song I want to talk about is ‘Revolution’. Yes, it’s about the healthy 2+ minute outro. A great song even without the aforementioned outro, although it is the outro that really pushes it to be one of the best on the album. The passage sees gradual alterations and additions in the sonic palette until it descends into enjoyable, brilliant and complex chaos. That’s all I’ll say. Also, for what it’s worth, I think this is the most ‘remarkable’ album of the last two seasons. Not my favorite, but the most remarkable.
3. Sinner get Ready by Lingua Ignota
This was on the second place until yesterday, just because I had never heard this and the now second placed album back to back. That was just to show that it was close, very close between second and third place.
Now let us look into the details. It primarily deals with topics like spirituality, Christianity, infidelity. While the content is good on its own, it’s the instrumentation and the soundscape that really elevates the album to one of the best — as is the case for most good albums, in my opinion — and it is truly grand. It is unique, serene(in a way?) and sprawling. The vocal performance by Lingua Ignota is one of the most powerful I have heard. All of this while keeping the songs very interesting.
Many songs on this album are based on a divorce, and Ignota critiquing the male partner. She wants him dead, to be blunt. At one point, she wonders if she’s done enough for an entity referred to as ‘God’ to grant her this wish. (I know who (or what?) God is, by the way). There are several audio snippets added for context/transition depending on how you look at it.
When I mention ‘songs’ for this album, they are more like meditations, more so than any other album on the list. Not calming, but surely enlightening. Now, it is time for us to go to my favourite part of any album, the sonic and textural part. In this album more than any other, again, the textures are immaculate. I have absolutely no idea what prompts me to say this, because I don’t understand music, but I can sense it. The grading parts of ‘PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE’ and the dread and calmness of ‘PERPETUAL FLAME OF CENTRALIA’, everything is executed with a distinct vision and scary perfection. There are far too many individual moments in the album to mention, with the song MANY HANDS being my favourite. The album is, truly, a journey.
4. For The First Time by Black Country, New Road
This is the fantastic debut of British experimental rock band, Black Country, New Road. Yes, debut. A truly mesmerising one at that, too. There are very few apparent flaws with the album, (their second album irons them out) and were it not for some of my favourite albums of all time, this would have been higher. The first track, ‘Instrumental’, is a six minute instrumental track, which is honestly one of the best on the album, which is not saying much owing to the fact that there are only six songs on the project and every single one of them is unskippable. Every layer is proficiently arranged and the song structure is tirelessly perfected, both of which are the case with all of the songs on the album, barring maybe ‘Track X’, which is still good, but the pacing is a little off.
Obviously we need to talk about the song structures in detail. The start, the buildup and climax is present in almost every track, and the diverse range of instruments make those payoffs addictive almost. The instrumentation between “Working on the Glowup” and “They ask me” on ‘Athens, France’ is one of the best musical moments of the past few years(second best on the album after the last minute of ‘Science Fair’), and on the same song, there’s an almost two minute outro which is equally formidable.
It is followed by two longest songs on the album, and also the two harshest, also the two most impressive, progressive, experimental and best paced songs. That’s a lot. Lyrically, ‘Science Fair’ is on a level above other songs, ‘Sunglasses’ is the best of the rest. What is it about? That’s up to you. I don’t care, but it seems to deal with the themes of ordinary problems. Nothing too complicated here. Even if Isaac wanted it to be perceived as complicated, I can’t be trusted with paying attention to the lyrics when the music is SO GOOD.
5. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz
Little Simz is by far the best British rapper, and I’m not confusing rapper with female rapper. Her music has been great for some time now, but this is the album that truly justifies her talent. Grand instrumentals, voice inflections, jazzy songs, brilliant flows, SIMBI’s got it all.
It deals with many subjects including being an introvert, specifically a rapper that’s introvert among seemingly an ocean of outspoken and braggadocious rappers. This is the subject that gave the name to the album, but it’s just one part of it. Simbi, which is her real name in addition to acronym for the album, touches on the subjects of success, being a woman (also specifically in the rap industry) among many more. It is scattered in terms of subjects, but there’s a very strong sense of fixed perspective. She plays the role of herself, and stays consistent throughout the album.
As for the sonic part, it is, as you’d expect, brilliant. The opener, ‘Introvert’, is one of the grandest hip hop songs I’ve heard and she sets the bar high with this song. In objective sense, this is the best song on the album. The very best in rap for the two years, by far. My favourites from this stacked track list are “Woman” and “Two Worlds Apart”. That does not mean that I didn’t enjoy the rest of the album. It just has the strongest start possible.
It’s not perfect, however. She missed the mark in the middle with the interludes and a string of weak moments. “Gems” to “Point and Kill” has two great songs, “I see you” and “Standing Ovation” while the rest disappoint. By no means are they bad, just not upto the standard she set for herself. The album ends on a positive note, though, with “The Garden” being one of the better interludes and “Fear No Man” proudly wearing its influences. An overall great album which can very deservedly be named the best rap album from the last two years.
6. Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
Only 6th?! Yes, but that’s not to discredit this near perfect album. Only the second album to receive a score of ten from Pitchfork in the last 22 years, this critically acclaimed album from Fiona Apple is alternative/art Pop at its very best. I’ll be the first one to say this: it’s a goddamn masterpiece and unique if anything ever was. A flurry of spoken/sung performances on top of very raw and yet complex instrumentals see this album hitting a weird spot. The production details and chord progressions add to this feel and give off a, and I’ll say it a hundred times, unique vibe that is almost impossible to replicate.
“Shameika” is one of the best songs to ever exist and I have learnt not to give that compliment easily since my “top 50 songs of all time” post. My top 50 will now feature maybe 5 songs from that list, but it’ll definitely feature this one. Every impressive thing of the album is put on show on this song, with the added grit of rock influence. The keys could be the soundtrack to a horror film and I love it.
The title track is a brilliantly executed song with weird time intervals. It’s not always easy to pull that off and considering it was caused by layering the vocals slightly off, I’m amazed at how well it works. Speaking of layering. That’s another highlight of the album.
It is described as “the most sophisticated version of bedroom pop” which seems truer every moment. Yes there’s an amateurish edge to it, but it is VERY clear that the mixing and production, along with instrument playing is done by very proficient professionals. Talented people making deliberately imperfect songs is something we have seen time and time again. It still impresses the whole music industry every time, and when the result is this good, it’s not hard to understand why. I think this is everything you need to decide if you want to listen to this one or not. I could sing praises for days.
7. G d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! By Godspeed You! Black Emperor
I won’t be saying anything. It’s a post rock, abstract, experimental rock album from the veteran rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. In my opinion, if you haven’t listened to them, or swans, or any other post rock band, and would like to get into them, this is NOT a good entry point. Maybe try ‘Polygondwanaland’ by King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard as a mild take on the sound, then hop onto the comments to let me know what you think!
A few more albums you could check out from the last two years:
An Evening With Silk Sonic by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak
Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers
Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast
Evermore by Taylor Swift
Stand for yourself by Yola
Microphones in 2020 by Microphones(it’s just one 44 minute song but I consider it an album) And its not on spotify so a Youtube Link.
RTJ4 by Run The Jewels
By the Time I Get To Pheonix by Injury Reserve
That’s done. Now for a my very own version of ‘nu thoughts’,
I have been listening to a lot of music lately, and perhaps it is a little too much. In the last two days, I have listened to eighteen full albums, most of them being more than an hour long(some of them more than 2 hours), while also being rough, abrasive and loud. I am aware this could damage my ears. I am trying to reduce my listening time, especially for the louder albums. Perhaps after my exams are finished in exactly one month’s time, I’ll be able to take care of my ears a little better. As for reading, I have pretty much stopped reading and will, again, try to reinstate my reading habit after my exams. Same for writing. Thank you for reading!