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STRAND's Favourite Albums of the Year

All About Eve - PJ Harvey

In a world full of voices incessantly bumping against one another, PJ Harvey’s album is a sublime pause from the articulate and the concrete. It’s a record to be listened to at night. What hides in its shadows are tales of wonder and of woe, anxious subtleties, intimidating yet purely human. The vocals are scarce, and consequently even more powerful. Harvey's breathless falsetto bumps against the inability to find its place in the world. The gently climactic “The Moth” is carried by the piano fortes created, almost seamlessly, through a craving for intimacy. From her 90s grungy roughness to the more mainstream stories from the city, the score to All About Eve appears to a be a follow-up to White Chalk, my personal favorite album of hers. Less hysterical and dissonant, and somehow more grounding.

- Alex Blank

Please Excuse Me For Being Anti-Social - Roddy Ricch

Reflections on the effects of violence is nothing new in hip-hop, but Roddy Ricch’s version is rare and impressive. He blends a brutally matter-of-fact approach to storytelling with brief yet penetrating self-reflection, reminiscent of classics of the genre. Roddy Ricch’s debut album is tender. It never feels wallowing, it feels fresh like scraped skin or a bruise, immediate in its appeals to your emotions. Rarely does it feel as though Roddy Ricch is asking for your sympathy, so perfunctory and matter-of-fact are his revelations. The album’s opener is already unable to escape the spectre of his days before fame. By the time the end of the album rolls around on its climactic track, ‘War Baby’, we’ve been treated to anthemic shout-rapping about luxury on ‘Peta’, and molasses-heavy singing about sexual prowess on 'Bacc Seat', but the themes of violence and its lasting effects into his new Hollywood life remain and the final track lets us know: 'It ain't normal baby.'

- Alexander Walker

Charli - Charli XCX

Charli XCX is cementing herself as the pioneer of pop music and nothing proves it more than the release of her sophomore album, Charli. The album has it all; emotional love songs rife with twinkly PC sounds, catchy choruses that’ll get stuck in your head and even an ASMR bop featuring Miss Cupcakke. What Charli does best is showcase other artists, ones that deserve to be acknowledged for their genius, whether it be HAIM, Clairo or Kim Petras. Her tracks allow them to shine just as much as she does. Charli has created an album that captures the essence of 2019 pop. Nothing illustrates this more than 'Gone', featuring Christine and the Queens, which is the showstopper on the album and arguably one of the best songs of the year. The lyrics, the beat, the energy, it’s everything pop music should be and it’s all thanks to Charli.

- Amika Moser

Jaime - Brittany Howard

Alabama Shakes’ lead singer Brittany Howard exudes undeniable charisma with music that manages to be somehow energetic, consoling and harrowing all at the same time. ‘Jaime’ is Howard’s first album since embarking on her solo career and encapsulates the pain of losing her late sibling, Jaime, so young. Despite its sad subject matter, it remains so unmistakably ‘Howard’ in the way that it carries her contagious joy and passion for her own music. As a performer she is nothing less than captivating, and she completely vibes with her own deliberately articulated rhythms and melodies (many of which she came up with on her broken but treasured guitar). Part of the reason why I find ‘Jaime’ so extraordinary is that Howard has such a depth of knowledge around how to make music and construct sound, that she makes it seem almost spontaneous because it comes from a place of pure passion.

- Annie Dabb

Amir (Deluxe) - Tamino

With its Apollonian cover, the deluxe edition of Amir includes twelve original songs and nine from his live performances in Brussels and Paris. The indie sensation’s album is hypnotizing, with its ethereal and melancholic sounds. Ballads 'Indigo Night' and 'Persephone', with their candidly sorrowful lyrics and gloomy chords, truly get deep into the soul. Verses with its lighter melodies and poetic verses is a majestic ode to love and passion. Oriental sounds that arouse his Egyptian roots are reflected in 'Habibi' and 'Intervals', giving his songs a cascade of exotic melodies that evoke love, the desert and the heartbroken soul. Tamino’s cover of 'La Javanaise' by Serge Gainsbourg is a truthful rendition to one of his most influential idols. Amir is a masterpiece as its hypnotic sounds travel through all phases of the emotions that come with love and heartbreak.

- Carla Suarez

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