It’s a new year for Mind Equals Blown, and Fast Five is back again. The release year has slowly come into vogue, and this year is filled with closure from years past, as well as setup for the year ahead. Mac Miller posthumously rounds out his career with the help of Jon Briton, and the results cement the legend of the late star. One of hip-hop’s living legends made a surprise return, as Eminem’s latest, for better or for worse, throws him back into a rap game that he can’t seem to keep up with. Halsey continues her fluid career trace with a an aptly named record to reflect that variety. On the singles front, The 1975 and Soccer Mommy both give us something fresh to chew on as they set out to build a successful year with new full lengths on the way.
Mac Miller – Circles
Mac Miller’s final record finishes the journey he started on Swimming, his last album before his tragic death in September 2018. With influences from genres ranging from psychedelic rock to jazz, Mac releases his most complete and most beautiful album. On songs like “Blue World”, “I Can See”, and “Hands”, we hear a classic Mac Miller letting loose, releasing catchy, funky bars like he has since Blue Slide Park. But here, he’s at his best on songs like “Hand Me Downs,” “Once a Day,” the title track, and the album’s lone single, “Good News.” These songs paint the picture of an artist finally, tragically, content. Over clean production, thanks to Jon Brion, Mac seems to just want to be fine on these songs, but this album reaches far higher. This album is beautiful yet real, complete yet always searching for more. It couldn’t be a better final gift. –Matt Marshall
Eminem – Music to Be Murdered By
Eminem is 47 years old. Eminem is 47 years old. Eminem is 47 years old. Repeat this to yourself as you listen to his newest album, Music to Be Murdered By. Repeat it over and over again, or you will forget that he isn’t a 20-year-old mediocre rapper, a rapper that a 20-year-old Eminem would rip to shreds. On the record’s first song, Eminem says, “Bitch, if I was as half as good as I was / I’m still twice as good as you’ll ever be.” For most rappers, that’s true. It really is, and Eminem shows signs of his greatness here. There are flashes, in songs like “Godzilla (Feat. Juice WRLD)” and “No Regrets (Feat. Don Toliver),” of an Eminem gone by. They’re indomitable, brash, and yet elegant, but they never make up for his lack of growth on this record. –Matt Marshall
Halsey – Manic
Well-known pop-sensation Halsey recently released her third studio album titled MANIC – “an album written by Ashley for Halsey.” Already receiving high praise from critics and fans alike, MANIC is the emotional rollercoaster of Ashley’s life. Featuring the 2018 break-up anthem, “Without Me,” along with lead singles such as “Graveyard”, “Clementine,” and “You Should Be Sad,” this album portrays the growth cycle from the pain of heartbreak and loneliness to finding self-acceptance. This is by far Halsey’s best work to date where she shows her most vulnerable self, with a variety of instruments being introduced and each song having a personality of its own. –Savannah Lee Rowley
The 1975 – “Me & You Together Song”
When The 1975 take over the world again in 2020, it looks like they’ll do so with guitars. The fourth track to come from Notes on a Conditional Form suggests that we are in for a trip with the band’s next crusade. This is the second guitar-led track we’ve seen from the band on this cycle. While “People” embraced dance-punk to tell off human tendencies, this track looks to Jay Som and Definitely Maybe-era Oasis to give us an unapologetic love anthem that is built for the 2020 equivalent of the AIM away message (romantic TikToks? loving mass snaps?). It’s one of the most refreshingly simple songs we’ve seen from the band in a while, reminding us just how they good they are at writing choruses across the melodic spectrum. On its own, the song shines, but as part of The 1975’s path to world domination, it’s a pure chef’s kiss of romantic affection.
Soccer Mommy – “circle the drain”
Soccer Mommy is slowly building a case for putting out another smash record in 2020. Her latest singles have seen her embrace longer songs with more eschewed choruses to create mellow jams perfect for an episode of The O.C. The opening strums build into a whimsical arrangement that is dense yet laidback, laying a bit of the edge off that made Clean such a smash. Simultaneously, the track sends Sophie Allison back to her bedroom roots, while opening her sound up more than we have ever seen from her. She does so with a few takes from her 2000s indie rock forebearers, along with modern stalwarts like Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.