Quality albums can be hard to come across, but as someone who can appreciate most genres, with the exception of country and bluegrass (sorry, not sorry), I found myself listening to a wide variety of summer releases.
Tyler, The Creator’s “Igor” got me into R&B and artsy album aesthetics, Taylor Swift’s “Lover” has me hoping her cringy lyrics fawning over old feuds are over and Lewis Capaldi had me embarrassingly belting out — but definitely not hitting — powerful notes as I was driving on the freeway. These heavy hitters are among many, but eight albums stand apart from the rest.
Here are summer 2019’s best summer releases.
1. “I Am Easy to Find” by The National
Released on May 17, “I Am Easy to Find” is a gracefully poetic album by psychedelic indie rock group The National. The band is iconic for the way they allow their distinct sound to accompany the sublimation of inner rage and consuming emotions, and this summer release is no different.
In each song, Matt Berninger’s voice is frequently guided by female vocals, allowing for a lighter undertone to the singer’s low baritone. With female vocalists spotted throughout the album, the lyrics, in return, create a conversation and encourage the visualization of real-life circumstances.
A tribute to their roots and developing sound, “I Am Easy to Find” is heavy with meaning, overlapping instrumentals, Berninger’s unmistakable pitch and newly added female vocals.
Recommended Tracks: “Where Is Her Head,” “Oblivions” and “Hairpin Turns”
2. “Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent” by Lewis Capaldi
Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi’s persona typically appears bubbly and happy-go-lucky despite being instilled with self-deprecating humor, so his release of “Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent,” which is etched with heartache and vulnerability, was jarring. The album melds Adele with Ed Sheeran, presenting honest, revealing lyrics and powerful notes.
Reaching the top of the charts in the UK and Ireland, Capaldi’s album outsold all of the top 10 albums in both countries. “Divinely Uninspired” is filled to the brim with piano-driven power ballads and relatable lyrics.
Capaldi has beautifully crafted an album worthy of being played on repeat whether heartbroken or not. His voice, capable of belting out heavy notes on a wide range, combined with the piano makes for addictive and easy listening.
Recommended Tracks: “Hold Me While You Wait,” “Forever” and “Headspace”
3. “Lover” by Taylor Swift
Compared to T-Swift’s last album, “Reputation,” which was released in 2017, “Lover” is rosy, light and reads as a multimodal love letter. “Lover” has already earned the biggest U.S. sales week since her 2017 album and has hundreds of fans swooning over her signed album covers.
The album’s revitalized, pastel-tinted theme matches the pop-infused notes and pitches while reinforcing what’s hidden in the lyrics. “Lover” seems to be a reflection of transition in her personal life as she becomes more active and less secluded. Another bonus: Swift (finally) seems to be over big feuds and caring about news headlines — for the most part.
Many anticipate this album to be her most important to date. Some go as far as to call the music “timeless,” and Swift made it a point to make her album more diverse compared to her previous works: “There’s a lot of a lot on this album. I’m trying to convey an emotional spectrum. I definitely don’t want to have too much of one thing.” Topic variety may be what brings her even more success.
Recommended Tracks: “Lover,” “Soon You’ll Get Better” and “The Man”
4. “Igor” by Tyler, the Creator
“Igor” is hip-hop artist Tyler, the Creator’s sixth album release and first No. 1 record on the Billboard 200. The album has surpassed records to become “the first fully self-arranged and self-produced album by a solo rapper to come out on top of the charts.”
This album is being called Tyler, the Creator’s most inventive album yet. He talks about “Igor,” the persona represented on his album’s cover, as a character, saying, “I just thought it would be a cool character, just tall, slim, suit, blond hair. … And black dudes don’t really have hair like that.”
Many see the album as marking a point of development in Tyler, the Creator’s work. Fans and listeners are being exposed to a revealing, vulnerable R&B funk album that follows the narrative of a love triangle.
Recommended Tracks: “EARFQUAKE,” “NEW MAGIC WAND” and “I THINK”
5. “No. 6 Collaborations Project” by Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran’s “No. 6 Collaborations Project” is a direct follow-up to his fifth album, “No. 5 Collaborations Project.” The star-studded collaboration list features artists like Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Camila Cabello, Travis Scott and Bruno Mars, among others. True to the album title, each track features famous artists and experiments with vocal and genre combinations.
The album features a combination of pop, hip-hop and rap, making for a genre-diverse album. “No. 6” is more impressive as a collection of collabs rather than an album, but “No. 6” still debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Recommended Tracks: “I Don’t Care,” “Cross Me” and “Beautiful People”
6. “Assume Form” by James Blake
Electropop-infused R&B artist James Blake’s fourth album, “Assume Form,” has received positive feedback from critics and fans alike, placing it in the upper echelon of summer releases. Alexis Peditris of “The Guardians” displayed praise for the album, stating, “Assume Form feels like Blake opening out, adding fresh, noticeably brighter colours to his palette.”
The album’s collab lineup is lined with hip-hop and rap’s heavy hitters, including Travis Scott and Metro Boomin’, showcasing the singer’s newfound place among music royalty. Blake marries electropop and poetically-exposing lyrics with hip-hop and R&B influences, giving fans one of the most different, unmistakable summer releases.
Recommended Tracks: “Mile High,” “Where’s The Catch?” and “Lullaby For My Insomniac”
7. “Map Of The Soul: Persona” by BTS
In April, South Korean K-pop band BTS released “Map Of The Soul: Persona,” which fuses Korean and English lyrics with the signature K-pop instrumentals. As a multilingual album, “Map Of The Soul” debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and achieved the band’s second gold album in the US.
This album follows their two previous albums, “Love Yourself: Tear” and “Love Yourself: Answer,” and signifies a new era of BTS. Laced with upbeat notes of pop and different song topics, the album is one of the lighter, more energetic summer releases.
Recommended Tracks: “Boy With Luv,” “Mikrokosmos” and “HOME”
8. “Ventura” by Anderson .Paak
Anderson .Paak’s summer release album “Ventura,” shockingly released only a couple of months after his previous album, became the rave for those who have been waiting for the artist to get back to his soulful funk and R&B roots.
While getting back in touch with what made him notable in his first album release, .Paak also incorporates romantic themes and funk subgenres. Many critics hail “Ventura” as the young artist’s comeback release as .Paak begins fixing the flaws that appeared on his previous albums. While this may be a turn in his career, .Paak’s best album is definitely still to come.
Recommended Tracks: “Come Home,” “Make It Better” and “King James”