Turntable Thoughts has been very Asian-centric lately, but that’s not all I listen to. So instead of painting myself into a corner with weekly Japanese/Korean recommendations, I decided to write on my favourite albums that I’ve had the pleasure to listen to this year.
Splitting this series up into quarters and arranging each album according to their release date, this isn’t a ranking of albums but more about me shining a spotlight onto these records.
James Blake is 6’5″. How an immense frame like that is able to produce a voice so soft and alluring is one of the world’s greatest mysteries. On his 4th studio album, he elevates not only his vocal performances but also production choices to new heights.
Pulling on collaborators that range from Metro Boomin’ to Rosalía, James’ latest record is an upbeat one that is a far cry from any of his previous efforts. Taking inspiration from trap to flamenco pop, Assume Form is a meticulously crafted album that was designed to translate the feeling of falling in love into a musical medium… and it is beautiful.
As one of the most prolific figures in trap rap, Future had a relatively quiet 2018, with his sole release being his Zaytoven-collab mixtape — Beast Mode II. So his announcement of THE WIZRD this January was a welcome surprise. Though it’s still more of the same, Future remains as one of the most reliably consistent rappers of the past decade.
Improving upon the classic trap style of his 5th studio album Future and the autotuned crooning of his 6th Hndrxx, THE WIZRD is an immaculately blends the best aspects of his prior work and condenses them into a potent dose sorrowful trap rap. Sadness never sounded so turnt.
Signed to Eminem’s Shady Records, I had major reservations about Boogie’s debut album. The label’s previous signees — Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf first releases under Shady often included misguided attempts at chart success, which did more harm than good when it came to the quality of their records. Fortunately, that problem is nowhere to be found on Everythings For Sale. Tapping into his insecurities and anxieties, Boogie was able to deliver on a debut that’s both intriguing and appealing.
A mere 5 months after her stellar 5th studio album Sweetener, Ariana Grande came back swinging with follow-up project — Thank U, Next. Its title track debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and with 2nd single “7 Rings” repeating that track’s similar success (and gone on to be her longest #1 hit of her career), Ariana is undoubtedly the leading force of pop music today.
It’s also even more impressive that she’s done this her best body of work to date. Too often do we see artists that experience the peak of their career with records that play it a bit too safe, in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator (*cough* Taylor Swift *cough*). Thank U, Next is thankfully an album that embraces the contemporary trap trends of today while still managing to retain what makes Ariana’s music so compelling in the first place.
There are too many rappers in 2019 that have ‘baby’ in their name. 10 years from now, this trend would probably be seen as a brief novelty that was used to gain virality on the internet. So as many of his peers have their longevity questioned, DaBaby presents a strong case on why he may prove to be an exception.
Baby on Baby doesn’t follow the already stale formula of auto-crooning that has been explored to death, rather it’s a bar fest that proves DaBaby has actual heat to support his humorous aesthetic. Reminiscent of the works of Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, DaBaby is a wonderful marriage between old and new, a rapper that’s familiarly fresh.
Already being declared as the best rap album of 2019 by many, UK rapper Little Simz’ 3rd studio album is a tour de force of honesty and self-assuredness. After her past experimental efforts with A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons and Stillness in Wonderland, Simz decided to strip herself down and hone in on herself as an artist, resulting in one of the most revealing records that genre has seen in recent memory.
From the impressively varying production to the addictive songwriting to the most core factor that ties everything together — Little Simz herself. Without her impeccable performances on every track here, GREY Area wouldn’t have had the impact that it had on its listeners. It’s a record that establishes Little Simz as a talent that has been overlooked and also one that deserves all your attention.