During my time on The Heights, I have listened to countless albums that have been released since 2017. Most of them have been for reviews, others have been after reading somebody else’s review. A select few have purely been for fun, and had no relation to The Heights whatsoever (crazy, right?). Most of these haven’t earned five stars in my book, Emily’s Comprehensive Guide to Whether This Song is Country Enough, and I don’t know if any have received one star. Most have been stamped with the three-star mark, which gives the feel of a happy medium between “this album kind of sucked” and “but I still like the artist as a whole.”
Here are the four albums from the past three years that I’m still singing along to today.
Midland – Let It Roll
I knew Midland’s second album would be good, but it exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable. From the sparkling, pink album cover to the unexpectedly romantic tracks that are featured throughout the entire work, Let It Roll is the project that solidifies that authentic country status that On The Rocks launched Midland to. The group didn’t change its sound at all, instead improving on it with even darker, grungier lyrics set to a country beat so true you can’t believe it was released in 2019.
This album wasn’t meant to be played through a pink bluetooth speaker in a well-lit Boston, Mass., apartment. It was created for dark, smokey bars with broken, faded marquee signs out front. People are probably line dancing, and it’s about 1,000 miles south of here. Enjoy.
If you only have 10 minutes: “Lost in the Night,” “Fourteen Gears,” “Put the Hurt on Me.”
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
It’s no secret that this album was my favorite thing about my junior year. Golden Hour has a song for every situation, but it all sounds so cohesive. It’s concerning to know that Musgraves will probably never be able to top this album, at least in my book.
The entire record is so clean and sleek that it’s hard to listen to just one song before it melts into the next. I knew it then, and I know it now: Golden Hour is the most effortless album that’s been released in recent years, and will resemble a major turning point in modern country music for years to come.
If you only have 10 minutes: “Golden Hour,” “Happy & Sad,” “Butterflies.”
Eric Church – Desperate Man
Longtime country favorite Eric Church has released plenty of amazing songs throughout his 13-year career. His rugged persona started to crack a bit with the release of his 2015 album, Mr. Misunderstood, and Desperate Man shattered it all together. While he still has his trademark ragged sound (and look), the content of his newer songs is deeper. This album touches on topics from political division (“The Snake”) to faith (“Monsters”) to love (“Heart Like a Wheel”). The album’s sound is eccentric and dark but ultimately leaves listeners with a more intrinsic and meaningful theme to ponder.
If you only have 10 minutes: “Heart Like a Wheel,” “Hangin’ Around,” “Desperate Man.”
Taylor Swift – Lover
I didn’t review this album when it came out because, frankly, I thought it would be bad. The second I listened to Lover, I regretted this decision. The project admittedly has a couple songs that I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing again. Some are just flat-out bad. But the majority are reminiscent of Musgraves’ aforementioned ethereal quality, with silky smooth choruses that glide from one song to the next.
While Lover doesn’t signify Swift’s return to country music in any way, it does make good use of guitars and pianos rather than the heavy synthesizers that dominated her previous album. Storyline lyrics full of imagery and detail will remind listeners of her earlier works, ultimately re-aligning the album with her old style of writing. And I think it’s safe to say most people appreciate her return.
If you only have 10 minutes: “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” “Lover,” “Paper Rings.”
Luke Combs and Lady Antebellum are set to release albums in the coming weeks, and I’ll probably review those. I don’t anticipate them being anything to write home about, but if they happen to have the potential to stick around in my brain for a while, maybe I’ll update this column. But until then, hasta luego.
Thank you to every roommate I’ve had at BC who listened to these albums blare out of my shower every night. And my 36 (and counting) music reviews for The Heights—thank you for reading (or even just opening) them over the past three years.
Featured Graphic by Ikram Ali / Graphics Editor