Graphics by Nicole Bae
By Tiffany Carbon
From Weyes Blood, to Lana Del Rey, to Vampire Weekend, this year has been filled with a variety of sounds. Yet, no one could officially decide on their album of the year, as many prominent artists were set to release at the last minute. With only two months left in the year, Big Thief, FKA twigs, and Caroline Polachek made their impactful contributions to this year's music, no matter how late.
Indie-rock and folk band Big Thief released their album, Two Hands, on October 11. The band released UFOF earlier this year in May, which received much acclaim–some even calling it the best of the year. Yet, instead of going on to immediately tour their successful record, the band decided to put out another album.
Adrianne Lenker is the group's lead singer who started writing her own music at age 10 and graduated from Berklee College of Music. Big Thief began to form when Lenker met and performed with guitarist Buck Meek at a house show. The two realized how well they worked together and have been making music since.
The band always knew that they would release two albums, due to how many songs they have written. Adrianne would write song after song and the band would build arrangements and compositions for them all. The group describes UFOF and Two Hands as siblings formed in the womb at the same time, but separate beings. Listening to the two records back-to-back, the contrasts and cohesiveness are obvious. Two Hands definitely feels and sounds more human, raw, loud. “Not," their lead single, really sets the tone of the album. It’s more vivid and intense, closer to the realities of the listener, while managing to beautifully sound like a live performance.
Pang, released October 18, wasn’t Caroline Polachek’s first album, but it was her debut under her full name. Polachek has released two albums, Arcadia (2014) and Drawing The Target Around The Arrow (2017) under two different aliases–Ramona Lisa and CEP. She was also apart of two musical groups, Chairlift and Girl Crisis Choir, before working solo. It wasn’t until June 2019 that the singer released her debut single “Door” as Caroline Polachek. Following "Door," she also released two more singles, "Parachute" and "Ocean of Tears."
Polachek calls Pang her most honest and sincere album to date. The singer is no longer hiding behind aliases - finally facing the challenge of releasing music as herself. Polachek really wanted to focus on her more mature vocals and lyricism on this album. Pang’s indie-pop and electronic sound doesn’t stray too far from what Polachek did with Chairlift, but it’s clearly more individual. There are elements of classical and PC music flowing throughout the records as Polachek croons about love and feeling lost. She gives the listener a detailed view into the inner workings of her thoughts on Pang, no more false pretenses and names.
After releasing her debut, LP1, in 2014, FKA twigs is finally back with her sophomore album MAGDALENE. Twigs, born Tahliah Barnett, performed as a backup dancer for many years before breaking into the music industry. A year later, she started working with producers in London to craft her signature, inimitable sound. It wasn’t until 2012 that she released her first project, EP1, followed shortly by EP2, which gained twigs great recognition and admiration from critics and audiences.
After many promises, delays, and four singles, MAGDALENE was finally released on November 8. Twigs herself describes the tone of Magdalene as more emotional and heartbreaking. She recorded the album during a time where she admits to being in a really sad place in her life. Twigs has never been shy when it came to expressing her feelings and fears, but MAGDALENE is her most exposed and vulnerable record yet. Tracks like “Cellophane” and “Fallen Alien” show significant artistic growth while sticking to her disjointed, art-pop, and alternative blent sound.