The thing to understand about country music, as a narrative genre, is that it's one inch deep at best. Also, it's tropes have become hyper-defensive of being ignorant. (I grew up listening to a lot of country music. It used to be more about narrative and less about Shut Up, Ladies, And Get Me A Beer.)
The best country music has got at troupe push-back is Girl In A Country Song. But that's about as far as the conversation has gotten.
This is context, so we understand where Taylor Swift is coming from. It's not a complex story-place. But what you can hear in Taylor Swift songs is her musical arrangements over the years have become increasingly varied. Why would she stay in a genre that isn't interested in trying new things?
She's trying things. She's growing. And her listeners are growing with her. Also, I dare you to watch the video for Blank Space and claim Taylor Swift isn't self-aware. Not only self-aware but speaking back to what is being said about her. (I love Blank Space because it can be a song about something being exactly what it is and not asking it to be something else.)
When I heard Shake It Off, her first single from 1989, my heart did a little leap in my chest. Taylor Swift was going to do synthpop. Taylor Swift was going to introduce 5000000000000 people to the glories of synthpop. Also, I proceeded to listen to Shake It Off 80 billion times because of that bass saxophone that's dancing along in the background of the song.
If you can't explain why you love 1989 other than it put joy in your heart. There's just something about it. You want something similar, something that will also feel familiar quickly and make you want to dance and sing along.
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Little Daylight. BEHOLD.
Little Daylight are from Brooklyn, and they draw their narrative influences from fairy tales which gives their album a great balance of sweet, synth and bass goodness with some darkness lurking beneath the surface. I've loved them since I saw them open for Bastille last year at the Phoenix. Any band that can get a Toronto crowd moving is working magic.
Their EP Tunnel Vision was about as perfect a thing for you as could exist until earlier this year when they put out their album. Go get Hello Memory. You can thank me later.
You have Bastille's Bad Blood, right? SO DO I. WE SHOULD BE FRIENDS. (ahem) Bad Blood is harder to love than 1989 on first listen because Bad Blood is an album that wants you to listen more than once and think about it and have conversations with it. For example, the first time I heard Things We Lost In the Fire, I didn't love it. And now I do. Because it's GREAT.
I already have Bad Blood. I MEAN WHO DOESN'T? So congratulations for being a person who has an ability to like lots of things, and please allow me to introduce you to Haerts. The album I waited a year for and love from first to last song no skips all good. It shimmers, it soars, and it does that thing where it gets better the more you listen to it. On a loop. For always.
1989 has a narrative structure. Yes, and it's the same as the one for RED. That's probably why we all like it so much. It's familiar; it just sounds different. This is great. It's comforting. But maybe you'd like the 201 course offering instead of the 101?
This is Wolf Gang. They have an album called Alveron, and I can map its character arc. Get me a pen. I'll do it. Also, listen to this song.
Is there sadness left in you? No. There isn't. And you haven't heard Black River, Last Bayou or Alveron yet. Your life is about to get so very, very good.
Wait is this secretly a Top Albums of the Year Post that you snuck Bastille back into?
Shh. Listen to this Lights song from her album Little Machines.
That Bastille album is the one you chose last year.
Have you heard Noosa? I love Noosa's Wonderland EP, too. (She cries glitter in this video.)
No, seriously, this was meant to be about Taylor Swift and and somehow become about your top albums this year.
Huh. Yeah it did. In that case, you should also get the Zella Day EP.
And if it really was a best of the year, then I'd be remiss not to mention this Bastille song.