Best of 2018

Whew! This took a lot longer to compile than I thought. As I’d said previously, it was a banner year for great music and it was tough to narrow it all down to my favorite top fifteen albums and songs! This time I went with the albums and songs that (I believe) I not only listened to the most, but the ones I kept coming back to time and again because they were just that enjoyable. Many of them were also part of my writing session heavy rotation.

I’ve also added my silly side lists of releases that may not have hit the top spots but certain got notice in other ways.

TOP 15 ALBUMS
15. The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl
14. Eric Bachmann, No Recover
13. The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition)
12. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures
11. Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
10. Metric, Art of Doubt
9. Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
8. Shame, Songs of Praise
7. Failure, In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind
6. The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood / Hard to Imagine the Neighbourhood Ever Changing
5. Lucy Dacus, Historian
4. Snow Patrol, Wildness
3. Johnny Marr, Call the Comet
2. GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star
1. Bob Moses, Battle Lines

TOP 15 SONGS
15. The Damned, “Standing On the Edge of Tomorrow”
14. Arctic Monkeys, “Four Out of Five”
13. Parquet Courts, “Wide Awake”
12. The Decemberists, “Severed”
11. Sylvan Esso, “Parad (W/M)E”
10. Johnny Marr, “Hi Hello”
9. Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”
8. Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)”
7. GoGo Penguin, “Raven”
6. Lucy Dacus, “Addictions”
5. K/DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “Pop/Stars”
4. tUnE-yArDs, “Heart Attack”
3. Lucius, “Woman”
2. Bob Moses, “Heaven Only Knows”
1. Snow Patrol, “Life On Earth”

BEST NON-ALBUM SINGLES AND EPS
Sylvan Esso, “Parad(W/M)E”
Failure, In the Future EP
Failure, Your Body Will Be EP
Failure, The Furthest Thing EP
Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)”
Various Artists, Universal Love – Wedding Songs Reimagined EP
Prince, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
Weezer, “Africa” / “Rosanna”
Matt Nathanson, Pyromattia EP
Dave Grohl, Play EP
Live, Local 717 EP
Nothing But Thieves, What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way? EP
boygenius, boygenius EP
K/DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “Pop/Stars”
Mutemath, Voice in the Silence EP

BEST ALBUMS TO BLAST WITH HEADPHONES
Shame, Songs of Praise
Preoccupations, New Material
Pinkshinyultrablast, Miserable Miracles
Soft Science, Maps
Cloud Nothings, Last Building Standing

BEST RETURN AFTER A LONG HIATUS
The Breeders, All Nerve
Tracey Thorn, Record
Andrew WK, You’re Not Alone
Jesus Jones, Passages
Belly, Dove
Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
The Get Up Kids, Kicker EP
The English Beat, Here We Go Love
Dubstar, One
Robyn, Honey
Dead Can Dance, Dionysus
The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Merrie Land
Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

BEST ACOUSTIC/REWORKINGS ALBUM
Lucius, Nudes
The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart
Beach Slang, Everything Matters But No One Is Listening (Quiet Slang)
Alt-J, Reduxer
St Vincent, MassEducation

BEST BOX SETS AND REISSUES
Wire, Nine Sevens
Bow Wow Wow, Your Box Set Pet: The Complete Recordings 1980-1984
Black Box Recorder, Life Is Unfair
The Cure, Mixed Up (Deluxe Edition)
Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (Super Deluxe Edition)
Public Image Ltd, The Public Image Is Rotten (Songs from the Heart)
Various Artists, C89
Prince, Anthology: 1995-2010
Various Artists, Live Aid
Phil Collins, Plays Well with Others
John Lennon, Imagine (The Ultimate Collection)
Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine (20th Anniversary Edition)
The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition)

…and that’s it! Hope everyone has a wonderful, fun-filled and rockin’ 2019!

END NOTE! I’ll be taking a bit of time off from blogging, starting in January, for personal reasons. I’m not sure how long this hiatus will last, but I’m not going to be making any scheduled posts for a while. I will try to post here every now and again, though I most likely won’t have them on any strict schedule. As always, thank you for following, and I hope 2019 treats you well!

See ya on the flip side!

2018 In Review, Part IV: October – December

Last review entry, kids, and it’s another long one! A lot of great albums and singles squeaked in during the last couple of months of the year, and they’re all pretty damn cool if you ask me.

Kikagaku Moyo, Masana Temples, released 5 October. Another band I discovered via KEXP. Not quite prog, not quite indie, always mesmerising.

Kristin Hersh, Possible Dust Clouds, released 5 October. A wonderful, boisterous album from one of my favorite indie songwriters.

Matthew Dear, Bunny, released 12 October. I thought this was an Editors record at first, but it’s so much weirder and darker, and I love it.

St Vincent, MassEducation, released 12 October. An amazing acoustic reworking of her 2017 record MassEduction.

Dubstar, One, released 12 October. WAIT, DUBSTAR IS BACK??? SWEET! I loved this band back in the 90s (go find their album Goodbye if you don’t have it already), so happy to see them again!

Cloud Nothings, Last Building Burning, released 19 October. This album just punches you in the face and doesn’t relent. Powerful and brutal.

Robyn, Honey, released 26 October. A welcome return after an extended hiatus, an extremely enjoyable pop record.

Steven Wilson, Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, released 2 November. A wonderful live record featuring some of his best tracks from both his solo career and his Porcupine Tree catalog.

K-DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “POP/STARS” single, released 3 November. The only reason it dropped on my radar was hearing all the artists I follow on Twitter gushing about the amazing rendering for this game-related video. The track is ridiculously catchy and sounds amazing in headphones.

The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition), released 9 November. Giles Martin did a fine job remixing his dad’s work here. It sounds updated, beefier, and more energetic. Dare I say, it makes them sound like an indie garage band…?

Failure, In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind, released 16 November. The year-long project is complete, and it’s a winner with its spooky sci-fi themes an sounds.

Hooverphonic, Looking for Stars, released 16 November. A new singer (their fourth, I think?) but still an amazing band.

The Smashing Pumpkins, Shiny and Oh So Bright, vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., released 16 November. Overblown title aside, this is actually a tight, fun and positive record from the band.

Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, released 23 November. Hooray! New Art Brut! Eddie Argos & Co bring back their distinctive brand of off-kilter punk rock.

MuteMath, Voice in the Silence EP, released 5 December. Essentially a Paul Meany solo project at this point, but he’s still providing some fantastic grooves and sounds.

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Whew! That was one hell of a fine year in music. So many great albums, singles, and EPs that came out, many of which I actually didn’t share here due to space! I’m going to be listening to a lot of stuff from this year for a long time running, I think.

Despite the ups and downs and excitements and frustrations of the past year (both personal and otherwise, of course), I have to say it was an overwhelmingly positive one on multiple levels, and I’m glad that I had such a soundtrack for it all.

Coming up next Monday: the 2018 Best-Of Lists!

2018 In Review, Part III: July – September

Summertime in 2018 seemed to go by in a blur for me somehow…I know I was ridiculously busy with the writing of both In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex story, not to mention dealing with consistent Day Job drama. What kept me sane, as always, was the music. It was around this time that I’d decided to change my listening habits (I’d been listening to Indie617 and occasionally SiriusXM up to that point) but found myself drawn to KEXP out of Seattle. That station provided me with a hell of a lot of new bands I’d never heard otherwise, and I’m happier for it.

Erasure, World Be Live, released 6 July. I can only describe this live record as ‘fabulous’, partly because the tunes are fantastic, and Andy Bell’s between-song commentary is absolutely hilarious.

Cowboy Junkies, All That Reckoning, released 13 July. A powerful record about facing that which you fear.

Tanukichan, Sundays, released 13 July. Not quite indie rock, not quite dreampop, but contains the best parts of both. A lovely relaxing album.

Gaika, Basic Volume, released 27 July. Trippy dancehall rap from Brixton with a mood that channels the murkiness of Tricky.

ShadowParty, ShadowParty, released 27 July. A fun, poppy alt-rock album from a sort-of supergroup containing members of New Order’s touring band.

El Ten Eleven, Banker’s Hill, released 10 August. I seem to be drawn to these indietronic-duo-with-a-sampler-footpedal bands, but I’m not complaining. Thanks to KEXP for pointing me in their direction!

Prince, Anthology: 1995-2010, released 17 August. I’d stopped listening to him sometime around Diamonds and Pearls, so I missed out on quite a lot. This collection surprised the hell out of me and made me appreciate his later work.

Mitski, Be the Cowboy, released 17 August. I’m a late follower of her work but this was a great starting off point for me.

Death Cab for Cutie, Thank You for Today, released 17 August. “Gold Rush” is quite the earworm for me.

Nothing, Dance On the Blacktop, released 24 August. Loud and crunchy, but quiet and tender as well. An interesting detour from their last album, but I love it.

Interpol, Marauder, released 24 August. They seem to have returned to the darker, louder post-punk that made Turn On the Bright Lights such a great album.

tunng, Songs You Make at Night, released 24 August. Late follower to this band as well, but I’m glad I found them. Quiet, delicate, and very quirky.

Paul McCartney, Egypt Station, released 7 September. How does this man keep writing such amazing records??

Eric Bachmann, No Recover, released 7 September. A lovely and tender album. This got heavy rotation during my writing sessions.

Chai, Pink, released 7 September. J-Punk with the energy of Shonen Knife and the goofiness of Puffy AmiYumi.

Bob Moses, Battle Lines, released 14 September. “Heaven Only Knows” is definitely in my Top 5 favorite tunes of the year. The whole album is simply amazing.

Failure, The Furthest Thing EP, released 14 September. Third of three EPs released, with the full album dropping a few months later.

Metric, Art of Doubt, released 21 September. A return to their rockier sound, though their synth layers are still front and center.

The Joy Formidable, Aaarth, released 28 September. Noisy, wild, and sultry. Listen to this loud.

Dave Grohl, Play EP, released 28 September. Sure, you could write this off as a twenty-minute long prog rock experiment, but Dave really is an amazing multi-instrumentalist.

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Coming Up: Part IV, Q4!

2018 In Review, Part II: April – June

Get comfy, y’all, because this is a huge entry. We had a ton of great releases this past summer that are worth checking out. Enjoy!

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sex & Food, released 6 April. My first reaction to this was that they sound remarkably like Steely Dan here, and I kinda love it.

Eels, The Deconstruction, released 6 April. Mark Oliver Everett can write deceptively touching songs, even when the subject matter is pain and sadness. An album that’s both about endings and beginnings.

Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, released 6 April. An album as quirky as its title, it’s a hell of a fun listen. This one got a lot of listens during writing sessions this year.

The Damned, Evil Spirits, released 13 April. This album really reminded me of their early 80s post-punk era, especially The Black Album (which is incidentally my favorite of their back catalog). Great stuff.

Jesus Jones, Passages, released 20 April. So glad to see these guys returning. One of my favorite 90s bands, and one of the few that can combine hard rock and electronics and make it sound amazing.

Pinkshinyultrablast, Miserable Miracles, released 4 May. Russian shoegaze that hits all my buttons: soaring melodies, heavy reverb, light and echoey vocals. A lovely album.

Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)” single, released 7 May. A great and powerful single-only release from the duo that I love cranking up on my headphones.

Beach House, 7, released 11 May. They’ve perfected that dreamy shoegazey sound and truly made it their own.

Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, released 11 May. It’s a weird album and I’m still not entirely sure what it’s about (my theory is that it’s about a bellboy/desk jockey at said hotel working solo on the night shift and having a long dark night of the soul), but it’s still amazing.

Failure, Your Body Will Be EP, released 24 May. Second of the band’s four releases. This is going somewhere interesting, but we still don’t have the full story yet…

Snow Patrol, Wildness, released 25 May. A VERY welcome return for the band. “Life on Earth” is another contender for favorite song of the year for me…one of the most powerful tracks they’ve ever released.

Dave Matthews Band, Come Tomorrow, released 8 June. This record felt like a return to their Crash-era sound; it’s quite enjoyable.

Johnny Marr, Call the Comet, released 15 June. His recent solo albums over the past few years have always been great, but he’s surpassed himself here, reinserting his signature ‘guitarchestra’ sound into his work, and it’s simply gorgeous.

Florence + the Machine, High As Hope, released 29 June. One of her most personal albums, this one really reminded me of Patti Smith’s work, and that’s definitely a high compliment.

Gorillaz, The Now Now, released 29 June. After the glorious and crowded Humanz from last year, the ridiculously productive Damon Albarn followed up with a light and poppy record with a lot of sunny radio-friendly tunes.

**

Next Up: Q3, July to September!

2018 In Review, Part I: January – March

Originally I was going to go with a favorites-of-2018 post and follow it up with my end of year mixtape list, but while I was going over the releases this past year I found I just could not do it justice with only one post.  Yes there were that many excellent albums out this year!

So instead, I’m doing a four-part post for the last four posts of the year with an overview of all the albums, singles, and EPs (and there were surprisingly many of the latter two!), focusing on each quarter.  I’ll then follow up with my mixtape post on the 31st.  Each post is going to be pretty long, so these should keep you entertained!

Starting with Q1, January to March…

BØRNS, Blue Madonna, released 12 January.  Quirky alternapop that’s fun to listen to without being precious or cloying.

Sylvan Esso, “PARAD(w/m)E” single, released 12 January.  A single-only follow up to 2017’s fantastic What Now, it’s light and fluffy fun.

Shame, Songs of Praise, released 12 January.  Amazing and melodic punk similar to the really cool stuff you’d hear on 120 Minutes back in the late 80s   I absolutely love this album.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures, released 12 January.  Their best record yet — full of power and emotion and finely tuned into great songs.

tUnE-YaRdS, I can feel you creep into my private life, released 19 January.  “Heart Attack” is up there as one of my favorite tracks of the year.  Merrill Garbus is so much fun to listen to.

Django Django, Marble Skies, released 26 January.  A strange band with an irresistibly catchy sound.

GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star, released 9 February.  Rarely does an album blow me away this completely.  Inventive jazz that infuses all different kinds of genres.  One of my favorite albums of the year.

Lucy Dacus, Historian, released 2 March.  A fantastic songwriter, I keep coming back to this album again and again.  One of my favorites of the year.

Lucius, Nudes, released 2 March.  “Woman” has to be my favorite song of the year; it’s so delicate and sparse, yet it wields so much power and emotion and the dual vocal melody is so perfect that it continues to give me shivers.

The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart, released 9 March.  A stripped-down collection of their singles and album cuts, it’s a lovely and relaxing record.  This one got some major play during my writing sessions.

The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood, released 9 March.  They’ve gotten bolder and more experimental with each album, and this one nails it.  

Editors, Violence, released 9 March.  One of my “I will buy anything they release” bands, they didn’t let me down.  

The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl, released 16 March.  One of their most heartfelt albums and one of their best.  So many great tracks on this one.

Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism, released 16 March.  She takes her favorite 80s soul and pop songs and brilliantly makes them her own.

Jack White, Boarding House Reach, released 23 March.  I was surprised at how great this album was!  I’m a passive fan, but this one is one of his best.

Preoccupations, New Material, released 23 March. This band gets better and better with each release.  They can switch from Slowdive-y shoegaze to Wire-y punk seamlessly.

Failure, In the Future EP, released 30 March. An unconventional release, in which four parts of a full album drop each quarter, and they pulled it off perfectly.

**

Coming Thursday: 2018, Q2!

Twenty Years On: December 1998

…and here we are at the end of a long year of great music!  As always, labels usually focus more on holiday sales of already-released albums than on dropping new ones, so this month was indeed a bit light.  A few singles here and there, and that’s it.  Personally I was letting myself relax a bit after an incredibly fruitful and creative year by listening to a lot of the records I’d purchased (or gotten as free promos!) from my store.  I started working a little on the revision of The Phoenix Effect and starting in on its sequel, and would continue to do so until about late 1999 when I decided a complete rewrite was in order.  (That, of course, would become A Division of Souls, the first book in the Bridgetown Trilogy.)  I spent New Year’s Eve up at my sister’s place and taping WFNX’s countdown, and driving home early the next morning.

Porcupine Tree, Metanoia EP, released December.  I didn’t get into this band until early 1999 when they dropped their fantastic Stupid Dream album, but I’d seen this cd floating around in the back room of the record store.  It’s full of instrumental outtakes from their 1996 album Signify but it does go to show how tight they were as a band.

Belle & Sebastian, This Is Just a Modern Rock Song EP, released 7 December.  A lovely follow-up EP to their fantastic The Boy with the Arab Strap record from earlier in the year.  The title track is a simple three chord tune but it’s got a wonderful slow build.

Beck, “Tropicalia” single, released 7 December.  A bit of light-hearted bossa nova fun from his otherwise moody Mutations album, this one got the most airplay from the record on the local alt-rock stations. 

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All in all, 1998 was a very good year for me.  I’d finished up my first novel in years, and I was in a good place financially and emotionally for the first time in ages.  I still had a long way to go before I could save enough money to move out on my own, but I was no longer flailing.  Things would change soon enough when the store manager moved on to bigger and better things (a regional manager of Newbury Comics — during the post-HMV years I’d run into him every now and again).  He was replaced by a much less enjoyable manager, and by 2000 I’d be out of there myself.  Despite that, I found myself in a much better frame of mind.  And a lot of the tunes from 1998 had a lot to do with it.

Hope you enjoyed my year-long series!  I may follow it up with more overviews but I don’t have anything planned as yet.  We shall see!

Coming Soon: 2018 Year End Best-of Lists!