Top 5 Albums of November
The brisk chill that washes over November is like the anxious calm before a storm. Our bones get more brittle and our minds dart to the long winter that lies ahead. We take some Advil to figure out travel plans as the plethora of December holidays sit idly by our bank accounts. As another year approaches, we evaluate the last eleven months and ask ourselves hesitantly, “Was this really my year?” And even if it wasn’t, I guess we can all be thankful that eating tide pods isn’t a thing anymore.
Per my own speculation, the music business is particularly stingy in November. I noted last year that Holiday music tends to flood the charts, so most major artists hold off on releasing new music until December. Considering that “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” are sandwiching Cardi B’s “Money” on Billboard’s Hot 100, I stand by my speculation. The point is that I had to dig a bit to find albums of note.
The albums that made our list this month are nostalgic sentiments each in their own unique way. One is a poignant goodbye letter, another is a homage to a hometown, and one is a posthumous tribute. Generally speaking, these albums touch upon persistence through fear and uncertainty, and expressing gratitude for what life has to offer. As 2019 approaches, perhaps we can all take a cue from these lessons, and hopefully by next November we can say with confidence, “2019 was my year”. Enjoy our top 5 albums of the month.
The Good, The Bad, & The Queen – Merrie Land
For fans of: Pink Floyd, Gorillaz, The Last Shadow Puppets
Comprised of Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn, The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Simon Tong of The Verve, and Fela Kuti’s former drummer Tony Allen, The Good, The Bad, & The Queen are the coolest group of blokes to form a supergroup since Them Crooked Vultures. Their brooding second album Merrie Land is an anxious, often sinister portrayal of Brexit-induced nightmares, simultaneously serving as the UK’s seedy, post-punk exit music from the EU, and as Albarn’s poignant goodbye letter to Europe – or in a more real sense, his sanity.
Charles Bradley – Black Velvet
For fans of: Sharon Jones, Lee Fields, Curtis Harding
Charles Bradley was nearing his fifties in Brooklyn when he was discovered moonlighting as a James Brown impersonator named Black Velvet. He sadly lost a battle with cancer in 2017 nearly twenty years after, but not before finding a bit of success later in life. Bradley’s fourth album Black Velvet is a collection of unreleased material amassed over his two decade career, serving as a tribute to a viciously talented man who spent most of his life trying to make ends meet. Full of straightforward soul tunes and choice covers backed by the Menahan Street Band, Black Velvet proves two things: Bradley’s diverse taste, and his reverence for his craft. What a wonder it is to her the Flying Eagle of Soul scream once more.
Jacco Gardner – Somnium
For fans of: Temples, Pond, Melody’s Echo Chamber
I sent this album to a friend of mine to hear his thoughts. “Sounds like a freaky Zelda sex dungeon”, he responded, and there is definitely some truth in that. Dutch psych-pop musician Jacco Gardner’s third album Somnium is an immersive psychedelic journey that dwells in a metaphysical realm. It’s entirely instrumental, generally aimless, and occasionally nonsensical, but as an experience, Somnium is a warm and compelling ride propelled by soft electronics and driving mid-sixties grooves. Though “sex dungeon” may be a slight overstatement, its cavernous and mystical feel makes that initial comparison weirdly accurate.
Jeff Tweedy – WARM
For fans of: Wilco, Ryan Adams, Elliott Smith
Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy opted to capitalize on his group’s 2018 hiatus by releasing WARM, his second solo album following 2017’s Together At Last. Sweet, delicate, and deeply emotive, the rootsy alt-country songs that make up WARM are as entirely inviting as its title suggests. This album finds Tweedy bearing an honest and vulnerable disposition on full display that is void of self-conscious doubt- the result is an immersive emotional dialogue that feels personal and consoling, much like a wholesome chat with an old friend over a tumbler of American whiskey.
Anderson .Paak – Oxnard
For fans of: The Internet, Kendrick Lamar, Noname
Topping the pure cinematic beauty that is 2016’s Malibu was a near impossible feat, and full disclaimer: Oxnard does not. But no artist should be constantly compared to their previous work, and that includes the artisitcally endowed wunderkind Anderson .Paak. Oxnard exists on a plane of its own volition, elevating the wild story of Hip-Hop’s class clown to new junctures. Its backdrop is gritty and hard-edged, but at its core, Oxnard is an earnest tale of a kid from LA trying to navigate his city and the fame that follows. Through bouts of bumping West Coast funk and glossy neo-soul, Oxnard delivers an authentic California experience through the lense of an exciting rising star.