Now, this article has been a pretty difficult one to write. Picking five favourite albums when you’re a music journalist is a near impossible feat to achieve. After putting my Spotify and iTunes favourites through an almost Hunger Games style elimination process, we have six winners. I know that five was the maximum, but, honestly, my heart couldn’t take it. Now, let me introduce you to my top six albums.
The Bitter End – Right Away, Great Captain! (2007)
Part of a trilogy project by Andy Hull, this folk-rock album tells the story of a 17th Century sailor who discovers that his wife had cheated on him with his brother. Upon discovering this, he murdered his brother and ran away to sea to avoid incarceration. Sounds heavy, I know, and at times it is. I discovered this treasure by chance while flicking through Spotify. As a listener, you hear this man’s thoughts and emotions with him from barely disguised rage in ‘Oh, Deceiver’, through to the desperation of choice in ‘I’m Not Ready To Forgive You’ to acceptance in ‘Captain I’m Fine and Thank You For Everything’. The lyrics to this album are beautiful, haunting and confessional. However, what really sells you is Hull’s vocal performance; his gruff yet strong voice is perfect for a sailor and Hull throws himself into injecting every emotion of this character, taking time to draw you in. I shall stop here as I could talk forever about this album. Settle down with some rum on a rainy day and set off on a maritime journey to the past.
Ocean Eyes – Owl City (2009)
Upbeat and casual, Adam Young’s second synth pop album was my first step towards almost 8 years of passion. This album brings up feelings of nostalgia as I remember listening to it on the way to class or in my room with friends. Ocean Eyes takes you to worlds filled with light, colour and positivity. Young’s voice is so sweet to listen to, much stronger than in his previous album, Maybe I’m Dreaming. His lyrics are honest and poetic, even playful at times in tracks such as ‘Rugs From Me To You’, a punny song about going bald and wearing wigs. Yet Young also allows himself some introspection in ‘Vanilla Twilight’, a lonely, yearning song about long distance relationships. If you need cheering up, pop this one on and you’ll find yourself grinning before you know it.
Bad Blood – Bastille (2013)
This particular album was gifted to me by my best friend at Christmas one year. She gave it to me and promised that I would adore this one. As always, she was right. This album gave us the hit track ‘Pompeii’ that clung to our radios for weeks. There are few albums that I have heard that can evoke such strong unique atmospheres for each track. Lyrically, it seems more like spoken word poetry and is filled with references to texts and myths which, as an almost-graduate of Creative Writing, I love. There are almost Greek chorus-like backing vocals that support Dan Smith’s beautiful voice with ease and balance. Bad Blood is definitely one to check out if you need some dramatic singing in your life.
Badlands – Halsey (2015)
Badlands just drips with effortless cool, just like Halsey herself. A concept album building upon ‘Ghost’, the track that shot Halsey into the limelight, it tells a mysterious, fog cloaked story that you can’t quite place. This is one of those albums that sounds gorgeous as it is, but would kill it live. Halsey’s sexy vocals team up with deep bass to seduce you slowly and entirely. I listened to this non-stop for weeks after my first listen. My personal favourites include ‘Castle’, ‘New Americana’ and ‘Control’.
Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) – Various Artists (2015)
If you’ve been hanging around on the internet over the last year, you may have heard of a rap and hip hop musical called Hamilton. Written by Lin Manuel-Miranda, this beautiful soundtrack tells the entire story perfectly – you hardly need to watch the show (I would love to go, yet my bank account won’t let me). Hamilton is the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers of America. In just a few hours, we follow Hamilton from the shores of the Caribbean to the heat of battle to the heart of New York City. We watch him make friends, fall in love and make mistakes; we watch him be human. Lyrically, this album is so complex. Each character has their own distinct style of rap and backing track and often these styles blend so smoothly you sometimes fail to catch it. To give you a sense of the sheer accomplishment of it all, Manuel-Miranda wrote ‘My Shot’, Hamilton’s character song, over the course of a full year to show how intellectual and passionate Hamilton was. I have to force myself to stop, but maybe check this out if you want to see what all the fuss is about. If you like it, you can move on to the cut songs and the Hamilton Mixtape, which features SIA and The Roots, among many others.
Death of a Bachelor – Panic! At The Disco (2016)
Energetic and wild, Death of a Bachelor is currently my workout album. This glorious pop rock has soaring highs and solemn lows that will leave you breathless as you attempt to keep up with Brendan Urie’s insane vocal range. Urie wrote this album as a tribute to Frank Sinatra, an idol of his whilst growing up. Whether you’re getting ready for a night out or killing it at the gym, Death of a Bachelor is perfect. Like Badlands, this album sounds awesome through your headphones, but would be incredible live on stage. ‘House of Memories’, ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ and ‘Death of a Bachelor’ are my absolute favourites, but I will happily wreck my voice singing each one of them at my neighbours’ expense. Check this out if you need to freshen up your pre-drink playlist.