What to Hear: Quarantunes

Bored and looking for something to listen to? Look no further.

In its simpler, more optimistic days, 2020 brought forth exciting new chapters for artists young and seasoned. Below are examples of some of the strongest collections to come in the three months (and, technically, one in late 2019).


Rare – Selena Gomez

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“Chill dance party” is the best way to describe Selena Gomez’s latest, most restrained effort.

Understated but confident, Rare offers up of the strongest, most fully realized tracks of Gomez’s career. The album closely follows the successful formula of past hit “Bad Liar.” The album’s sound takes the handclap-baseline combo and uses it as a suitable backdrop for Gomez’s soft vocal. The album standouts are those that use this formula most successfully. “Rare,” “Ring” and “Vulnerable” adopt it best, with the latter’s vocoder enveloping the listener similar to Taylor Swift’s 2017 sleeper “Delicate.” Though it doesn’t dive as deeply into Gomez’s personal life as some vultures may hope, the project is, thus far, the best commercial pop record of 2020.

Best Track(s): “Rare,” “Vulnerable,” “Crowded Room (feat. 6lack)”


Fine Line – Harry Styles

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Harry Styles’ self-titled debut was a surprise hit that allowed the boy band alum to transcend his previous work and amass a wider audience. Though mostly underwritten and repetitive form a lyrical standpoint, the ambitious scope and soft rock sound of the record left a lot of potential to build from. With Fine Line, Styles doesn’t quite get there, but the album is an accomplished step in that direction.

With more accessible pop rock singles in “Adore You” and “Watermelon Sugar,” Styles writes from a more authentic, vulnerable perspective. He can’t quite break away from his clear inspirations in The Beatles and Bowie, but the album offers an easy listen, with Styles’ delicious voice front and center.

Best Track(s): “Cherry,” “Fine Line,” “Adore You”


Chilombo – Jhené Aiko

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In the contemporary R&B world is Jhené Aiko’s latest LP, Chilombo. Her most accessible record yet, the collection stunts glorious features from the likes of H.E.R and Big Sean, among others. Impressive in its incorporation of contemporary hip-hop, trap and pop, the album continues to present Aiko as one of the more underrated singer-songwriters in the game today. A treat from start to finish with enough flavor to keep things interesting, Chilombo is worth a few repeats.

Best Track(s): “B.S. (feat. H.E.R.),” “P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)”


Cheap Queen (Deluxe) – King Princess

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Care for some heartbreak during this outbreak? King Princess’ debut is the perfect fit. Cathartic, emotional, and vulnerable to no end, this extended release of Cheap Queen is a sweeping debut from an endlessly talented artist whose biggest days are yet to come. Championed by a cohesive sound, powerful narrative and focused perspective, this album is a nuanced exploration of naivety, grief, and the self.

Best Track(s): “Prophet,” “Watching My Phone,” “Tough On Myself”


The Slow Rush – Tame Impala

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How better to ponder time and its highs and lows than with a project dedicated to it? Released earlier this year, Tame Impala’s fourth studio album The Slow Rush is the perfect soundtrack to a day working at home. Psychedelic, seamless, and all encompassing, the record is an equal parts exciting and soothing accompaniment to the self-isolation of today.

The album explores time from various points of view. The drug-like addition to nostalgia (“Lost in Yesterday”). The realization of aging and obsclesence (“It Might Be Time”). The acceptance of wrong turns and obstacles (“On Track”). All facets of time and its inherent, torturous tinge are present on the album. Happy listening!

Best Track(s): “On Track,” “Is It True,” “It Might Be Time”

 

Author: Kieran Sweeney

Writing about entertainment for the better part of a decade and consuming it twice as much, Kieran Sweeney is "the" pop culture aficionado. A connoisseur of the intersection of art and commercialism, the USC Annenberg graduate has earned his reputation as an empathetic and thoughtful writer. His resume includes USC's The Daily Trojan, USC Viterbi News, and personal assistance for publicity and marketing companies from Drill Down Media to This Fiction. His intersectional experience in the industry points to his wit and unfiltered thoughts on the latest project in entertainment

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