8 essential albums of the summer
From Tyler, the Creator's 'IGOR' to Clairo's 'Immunity,' there's a fresh soundtrack for every mood.
The summer of 2019 has truly blessed us with an abundance of new albums. Over the past few months, they have provided a soundtrack for every summer mood: chilling at the beach, a late-night bonfire, and every hot, sticky day in between. Between Chance The Rapper’s feel good vibes and Raveena’s smooth, silky R&B debut, we’ve seen an explosion of fresh music in a variety of genres and styles. Here are some of our favorite albums of the summer.
Raveena’s music will instantly put you in a beautiful trance––one of earth tones, textures smooth as silk, and an outpouring of love. On Lucid, the artist is more self-actualized than ever, using songs such as “Stronger,” “Bloom,” and “Temptation,” to touch on the difficult themes of queerness, toxic love, and past abuse.
“I’ve just been coming into my own sexuality and sense of fluidity more and really opening up that part of myself,” Raveena told i-D, reflecting on the process of creating “Temptation,” one of Lucid’s greatest hits. “I think the song was almost a tool for me to like realize that those feelings were valid and true and that this is actually something I'm feeling and want to explore more.”
Raveena makes music for women, for women of color, and most importantly, for survivors. The artist has never shied away from exploring the lasting effects of trauma, but does so with a surprising and much needed vulnerability. On Lucid, the artist uses every song as an opportunity to imbue her trademark softness into her honest narratives of healing, and through Raveena’s smooth vocals, profound lyrics, and soothing instrumentals, the listener instantly feels comforted and capable of conquering any hardship they may be going through.
Whether she’s thanking her immigrant mother on “Mama” or remarking on her self-growth on “Stronger,” Raveena is deeply and breathtakingly honest in her latest collection. Lucid is a beautiful masterclass of reflection, growth, and self-love, reminding Raveena’s listeners that softness can be strong, too.
IGOR, Tyler, the Creator
IGOR, Tyler, the Creator’s fifth studio album, is a refreshing and inventive collection. The artist provides an impressive mix of up-tempo bangers, thoughtful ballads, and a newer, more experimental sound masterfully curated by Tyler himself. IGOR illustrates the artist's eclectic musical capacity––while the album’s titular number “IGOR’s THEME” is slow, dark, and intense, other songs such as “EARFQUAKE” are lighter and more fast-paced.
Tyler further uses his latest drop to display his trademark playfulness. On “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE”he sings in a high-pitched voice while funky electric guitar and insistent, percussive beats play rhythmically in the background. Though the album demonstrates a huge musical range, Tyler still manages to curate a beautiful ambience throughout the collection: each song makes the listener want to close their eyes, sway slowly, and really listen to every note the artist sings.
IGOR shows significant growth from his previous works. While Tyler’s previous albums, such as Flower Boy and Cherry Bomb conformed to more traditional rap and R&B styles, Tyler’s newest collection is a testament to his musical experimentation. IGOR is a musical representation of the artists’ name; the artist truly used his latest album to come more fully into his sound, creating music that defies genre or label.
Apollo XXI, Steve Lacy
Although best known for his contributions as a guitarist in the Grammy-nominated R&B band, The Internet, Steve Lacy broke out on his own last May when he released his debut album, Apollo XXI. Playful in its experimentally and brilliant in its simplicity, the album feels like a trip to another dimension, full of adventurous songs that show off the artists’ trademark smooth yet boundary-pushing sound.
“I like to be a chameleon, blend into any situation I’m given, whether it’s musically, or with life,” the i-D cover star said in his May interview. And it shows on Apollo XXI.
On his latest effort, the 21-year-old experiments, but quietly––the collection intentionally pushes the boundaries of genre, seamlessly blending elements of funk, hip-hop, rap, and R&B. Tracks like “Hate CD” and “Only If” demonstrate Lacy’s gentle vocals and retro, funky beats, but the artist also cultivates more upbeat, feel-good vibes with singles like “Playground.” While the collection has heavy R&B overtones, the artist imbues aspects of various genres into his work, creating songs that are nostalgic, futuristic, and timeless.
Apollo XXI beautifully builds upon “Steve Lacy’s Demo,” the artists’ 2017 EP. In his first collection, songs like “Ryd” and “Dark Red” showcased a beautifully chill instrumentation that was at once rhythmic and soothing to the listener. On “Apollo XXI,” Lacy breaks away from traditional conventions of classic R&B and delves into a sound that’s entirely his own.
Ugh, Those Feels Again, Snoh Aalegra
Snoh Aalegra may be the master of the modern-day love song, and she has never been more in her element than on her latest work. Ugh, Those Feels Again is a beautiful collection of pop hits and ballads that touch on the themes of healing, self-reflection, and of course, love.
Perhaps the most classic single off the album is “I Want You Around,” a song that effortlessly combines all the greatest elements of Aalegra’s music––her deep, earthy voice, thought-provoking lyrics, and catchy instrumentation. “I Want You Around” is a beautifully simple number where the artist uses radically honest lyrics and a refreshingly sweet sound to simply appreciate being in her lover's presence.
Many songs on the album, such as “Situationship” and “Find Someone Like You,” are unconventionally upbeat and fast-paced, rather than the typical slow love song Throughout her new album, Aalegra meshes the sappy and the profound to create a new, honest form of ballads that celebrate love in all of its nuances. Rather than painting a one-dimensional picture of love, Ugh, Those Feels Again is a raw collection of love songs that explores the ins and outs of love and romance.
Angel’s Pulse, Blood Orange
British singer-songwriter Dev Hynes, better known by his stage name, Blood Orange, dropped his mixtape, Angel’s Pulse, in July of 2019. The collection embodies all the best elements of a traditional mixtape, meshing together songs of various speeds, sounds, and genres to create an album that is eclectic, surprising, and totally fresh.
In Angel’s Pulse, Hynes blends a mellow sound, as seen in the album’s first song, “I Wanna C U,” with traditional R&B and hip-hop anthems, such as “Gold Teeth” and “Happiness.” Unlike his previous works, many of which experimented with narrative-led voice overs, Hynes allows his musicality and experimentation to lead his newest collection. What’s more, Angel’s Pulse had its fair share of collaborators, allowing the neo soul stylings of Justine Skye and the haunting melodies of Kelsey Lu to take Hynes’ sound in an entirely new direction.
Hynes demonstrates huge artistic growth in this latest release; while the artist was always committed to experimentation in his music as seen through much of his work in both Negro Swan and Cupid Deluxe, this newest collection takes it to the next level. In Angel’s Pulse, Hynes is no longer just pushing the boundaries of genre, he’s intentionally refusing to conform to a musical label of any kind. The album not only switches style or tempo from song to song, but often does so in the same track, as seen in the stylings of “Take It Back” and “Dark and Handsome.” Angel’s Pulse is a true testament to the artist’s boundless versatility, creativity, and vision.
Perception, Joy Crookes
2019 has been a big year for Joy Crookes––the artist spent the earlier part of the year recording several gorgeous music videos, and in May she released her newest EP, Perception.
Crookes’ latest collection beautifully blends the two sounds that the artist does best: the upbeat, funky melodies as heard in her single “No Hands,” and a mellow, reflective sound that emanates through songs like “Since I Left You” and “London Mine.” Although musically disparate, the EP masterfully connects each track through the artist’s soft acoustic guitar and gorgeous, feminist prose. And throughout each song, the artist’s self-reflective tone and deep, soothing alto imbue the album with a sort of nostalgia that is surprising and lovely in equal measure, encouraging the listener to slow down, really listen, and commit to self-reflection in the same way that Crookes has.
Crookes has long been a musical chameleon, effortlessly mastering the R&B hit and the ballad with ease. On “Perception,” the artist is just as versatile, but also expands her musical palette by incorporating narratives of mental health and self-love into her already profound lyrics. This newest work is smooth, honest, and an exciting next step for the promising young artist.
The Big Day, Chance The Rapper
Although Chance the Rapper has been consistently releasing music since 2012, this summer marked the release of his first studio album. The Big Day is a masterclass of musical depth and range, immediately distinguishing itself from the artist’s previous works as more bold, experimental, and versatile.
The Big Day has something for everybody: up-tempo R&B hits like “Eternal,” contemplative, slow rap ballads like “We Go High,” and smooth, catchy rap songs like “Let’s Go On The Run.” In songs like “5 Year Plan” and “Sun Come Down”, the artist also showcases his trademark slow rap style. Throughout the album, Chance effortlessly blends the best elements from various genres to create rap music that is as contemplative as it is captivating.
Although known as "Chance the Rapper,” the artist uses his latest work to illustrate a greater musical range. Through collaborations with artists such as John Legend, Death Cab for Cutie, Megan Thee Stallion, and Nicki Minaj, Chance firmly establishes himself as a musical chameleon, capable of writing and performing rap, R&B, hip-hop, pop, and even indie tunes. In many ways, The Big Day is all new debut for Chance, who has introduced the world to his fuller, all-encompassing sound.
In Immunity, Clairo is as soft as we’ve ever seen her; this latest album builds upon the artist’s trademark bedroom, lo-fi sound to create something truly magical.
“Before this record I wasn’t really allowing myself to make music that felt this personal,” the artist admitted in an interview with i-D in May. “I’m continuing to learn how to open myself up more.”
Unlike the artist’s previous work, Clairo’s latest album incorporates a wider range of styles––songs like “Impossible,” “Closer To You,” and “North” are all funky and upbeat while still incorporating the artist’s classic indie vibe. In “Sofia,” the artist blends a lo-fi mood with her newer musical style beautifully, while also singing about her sexuality in a casual, yet deeply thoughtful way.
“I don’t know exactly what me talking about it now would do,” Clairo said, referring to her openly discussing her sexuality in “Sofia.” “But I’m hoping that it would be positive and it would tell the 16-year-old version of me that it’s totally fine if you want to kiss a girl and it’s not something you have to keep so deep down.”