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.

*

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 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!

Thirty Years On, December 1988

Well here we are, on the back end of one of my favorite years ever.  Despite the emotional ups and downs I dealt with, it was a highly creative one for me, and started me on the long road of becoming a more serious writer.  My circle of college friends returned for a brief holiday break and we met up a few times before it was time to return for spring semester of 1989.

The brief meet-ups we had were just what I needed to get myself back on track emotionally and creatively.  It would still be a sad parting, but at the same time I had to remind myself that I was only a few months shy of escaping my small town as well.

Various Artists, Winter Warnerland, released early December.  The Warner Bros distribution team kicked this fine and fun double album out to radio stations across the land, and ended up in my vinyl collection later on.  Its quirky lineup includes Danelle Dax, Los Lobos, Hugo Largo, Throwing Muses and REM alongside more lighter fare like Gardner Cole, PM, Honeymoon Suite and Peter Cetera.  It also features a few holiday cheer bumpers from  bands and singers such as ZZ Top, Randy Travis, Nelson Wilbury (aka George Harrison), and, weirdly enough, multiple bumpers from Pee-Wee Herman.  It’s worth checking out if you can find it, if for it’s kitschiness.

The Pogues, “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” single, released December.  A stopgap single between albums, this a wonderful take-off on early 60s British pop, complete with a fantastic video riffing on European music programs like Beat Club.

The Cowboy Junkies, The Trinity Session, released 7 December.  This band came out of nowhere and immediately became a critic and fan favorite with its gorgeously sparse album of tunes and covers recorded in a single day using the natural reverb of a Toronto church.  While their follow-up albums may not have garnered the high praise this one received, they’ve remained active and dropped a lovely bluesy album just this year.

Compilation, Does Truth Dance? Does Truth Sing?  The Singles 1988, created 27 December.  My first end-of-year, multi-tape mix encapsulating my absolute favorite tracks released throughout the year.  Partly inspired by the end-of-year countdowns I used to record off the radio, this one ended up being a favorite mix of mine, even though the tracks do get a bit thin by the third tape.  Not bad for a first try, though!  The title was snagged from a repeated line from Wire’s “A Public Place” that closes out side 2 of the first tape.  I’d make more of these mixes off and on throughout the years, and by 2011 I’d made it a consistent annual event.

…and that’s it!  Hope you enjoyed this series!  It was certainly a fantastic year for music, a year that in my opinion was going to be hard to top.  For years I held it to the highest regard and no years would ever come close, at least not until ten years later, with the HMV year of 1998…

Recent Releases, November Edition

Hi there!  While I was hiding out and taking a blogging break, I of course kept listening to all the new tunage coming our way.  I have to say I’ve been right pleased with the crop of releases for 2018 (further proving my theory that the best music comes out in years ending with 2 and 8, heh).  Here’s some great stuff that came out this past month.

Dead Can Dance, Dionysus, released 2 November.  An unexpected yet fascinating release from a great band.  It’s essentially two side-long tracks threading multiple melodies together, but it’s a fascinating listen.  I’d say it’s similar to their 90s output in sound and rhythm.

The Neighbourhood, Hard to imagine the neighbourhood ever changing, released 2 November.  Okay, so essentially this is their self-titled album plus tracks from the HardTo Imagine and Ever Changing EPs (whose names finally make sense now) and resequenced into a full album, but it’s still great.  I love how they’ve evolved from the radio-friendly “Sweater Weather” to murky and experimental alt-rock.  A solid collection.

Steven WIlson, Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, released 2 November.  A great live album from one of my favorite multi-instrumentalists.  It features a good cross-section of his solo output with a few Porcupine Tree surprises in there.

K-DA (feat. Madison Beer, (G)I-DLE & Jaira Burns) “Pop/Stars” single, released 3 November. I’m totally not a gamer (this is from League of Legends) and this would not have been picked up on my radar otherwise, except that an artist I follow on Twitter commented on how freaking amazing the rendering was on this animated video.  And it’s a killer track that gets stuck in my head now.

Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers, Bought to Rot, released 9 November.  An energetic and raucous album, she really sounds like she had a hell of a fun time recording this one.  Even the ridiculously spiteful “I Hate Chicago” sounds like there’s an element of playfulness.

Imagine Dragons, Origins, released 9 November.  I’ll totally cop to being a big ID fan despite their corporate rock sound — they’re just so much fun to listen to, and their ability to switch styles during the course of a single album is impressive.

The Beatles, The Beatles (The White Album) Super Deluxe Edition, released 9 November.  Well of COURSE this would be on my list here!  Giles Martin did a fantastic job of remixing an album that’s caused all kinds of arguments between fans, musicians and producers over the years.  It sounds clear and vibrant, but more importantly it brings out the band’s innate energies and gives each track a new life.  Highly recommended, even if you’re a passing Beatle fan.

P.O.D., Circles, released 16 November.  I’ve always liked this band ever since the Southtown album back in the day.  Great alt-metal tunes to crank up loud in the headphones.  A fantastic new release from them.

Failure, In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind, released 16 November.  An experiment for the band, they recorded this album four songs at a time over the course of 2018 and released them as EPs via PledgeMusic before dropping the entire album upon completion.  While this could have easily caused the album to become disjointed, it flows beautifully and retains its energy and power throughout.

Hooverphonic, Looking for Stars, released 16 November.  One of my favorite bands sneaks out an album while I’m not looking!  They may have yet another new singer but they’ve retained their lovely atmospheric style I love so much.  It sounds very similar to The Magnificent Tree, come to think of it.

The Smashing Pumpkins, Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., released 16 November.  With a ridiculous title like that, I really was expecting some kind of overblown navel-gazing monolith, but it’s actually a super-tight, super-fantastic, positive-sounding record that reminds me of Billy Corgan’s side project Zwan. I’m quite surprised and pleased by how fun it sounds. 

Laibach, The Sound of Music, released 23 November.  Our favorite Slovenian band takes its turn at covering songs from the Rodgers/Hammerstein musical and does it in their usual disturbing yet fascinating style.  Only they could make the purposely childish “Do-Re-Mi” sound sinister, proggy and awesome. Bonus points for managing to intertwine the music with their attempt to play a live show in North Korea some time ago.

Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, released 23 November.  These lovable goofballs return after a long absence with more punk silliness and infectious party rock.  A very welcome return.  Hooray!

The 1975, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, released 30 November.  This band has evolved in so many fantastic and unexpected ways that I’m always fascinated with what their next song will sound like.  This time out they’re twitchy and poppy, alternating between technopop giddiness and Radiohead-like weirdness.  I’m still not quite sure what to make of this album, but it’s definitely amazing.

Coming Soon: December releases and a Year-End Roundup!

Twenty Years On: November 1998

Oh hey there!  Here we go with another edition of Twenty Years On.  I don’t have too much to cover regarding memories of this point in time, other than that I was pretty much in full-on revision mode with The Phoenix Effect and listening to all sorts of tunage down in the Belfry.  This volume’s a bit thin, as is normal for end of year, but I still love these albums.

Beck, Mutations, released 3 November.  After the massive success of Odelay, Beck surprised many with a decidedly straightforward and moody semi-acoustic album.  This would become his album release style: alternating between weirdo funk and introspective melody.  

Alanis Morissette, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, released 3 November.  This album garnered mixed reviews — it was extremely long at seventeen tracks, and it lacked the pissed-off-exgf feel of “You Oughta Know” — but in retrospect it’s a surprisingly solid and pleasing album about finding inner peace after years of turmoil.

The Offspring, Americana, released 17 November.  This is possibly their most accessible and consistent record, featuring quite a few of their radio hits (“Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”, “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright” for starters), but it’s also a surprisingly dark album as well.  It’s my favorite of theirs.

Seal, Human Being, released 17 November. Slagged off by critics for not containing the hits that his two previous records had, it’s nonetheless a lovely and contemplative album.  He’s on my “I will buy anything from them” list of musicians, and he’s one hell of an amazing singer.

Coming Up: December 1998!

Recent Releases, October 2018 Edition

October has had a bumper crop of amazing releases, much to my surprise!  Sometimes these latecomers can go either way… they may be filler, or they may not quite live up to the hype, but this time out it most definitely did.  Loads of tunes worth checking out…

John Lennon, Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, relesed 5 October. Although John’s solo output wasn’t as pop-oriented or catchy as Paul’s, when he nailed it, it was flawless. His 1971 album Imagine gets a multi-disk overview here, filled with demos and alternate takes, as well as fascinating partial mixes (such as the amazing strings-only ‘Elements Mix’ of “Imagine”), all of which are worth checking out if you’re a hardcore Beatle fan.

Kristin Hersh, Possible Dust Clouds, released 5 October. I love the claustrophobic loudness of this album, a style Hersh perfected way back in her early Throwing Muses days. One of my favorites of her recent output.

Matt Nathanson, Sings His Sad Heart, released 5 October. After the surprise release earlier this year of his Def Leppard covers EP (which earned kudos from DL singer Joe Elliott himself!), Matt returns to his pop roots and writes an album that on the surface might be somewhat melancholy, but never ignores the more positive future.

Kurt Vile, Bottle It In, released 12 October. Kurt is one of those musicians I never thought I’d get into, but I find his stuff fascinating. It’s off-kilter alt-folk very similar to Courtney Barnett (no surprise they released an album together last year) with some really inventive and fun songs.

Justin Courtney Pierre, In the Drink, released 12 October. The former Motion City Soundtrack singer surprised everyone (even himself!) by releasing a solo record, and it’s just as great as you’d think it would be. Very similar in sound to his MCS work, and just as peculiar and fun.

Live, Local 717 EP, released 12 October. I was pleasantly surprised by this record — Ed Kowalczyk is back in the fold as lead singer — and the music is just as solid and powerful as their mid to late 90s output. Great to see them again!

Minus the Bear, Fair Enough EP, released 12 October. Alas this band has disbanded and this is their final release, but it’s a great way to go. I was late getting into their work, but their entire discography is worth checking out.

Cloud Nothings, Last Building Burning, released 19 October. This band has always been loud, but this record’s just brutal. It’s unrelenting, pissed-off punk that kicks you repeatedly in the head from the first note and doesn’t give up. A perfect punk record and one of my favorite releases this month.

Elle King, Shake the Spirit, released 19 October. Elle has no fucks to give, and she’s not afraid of letting you know that on this album. She’s always had sassy lyrics, but there’s an extra layer of it here. Sometimes it’s funny and clever, but just as often it’ll be pointed and biting. A great follow-up to her previous album.

Robyn, Honey, released 26 October. A VERY welcome return for the dance-pop singer, after a long personal hiatus. The new album is filled with infectious dance beats and sleek production and it’s a fun listen.

The Struts, Young & Dangerous, released 26 October. A very aptly named band with the cockiest swagger since the Rolling Stones. Their sound is most definitely a throwback to the late 70s-early 80s, with a bit of glam and a whole lot of attitude, but it’s an extremely fun if often ridiculous listen.

Sara Bareilles, “Armor” single, released 26 October. Per her Twitter, this wasn’t supposed to be released until early next year, but she felt its message was extremely important and much needed this second, and she’s not wrong. It’s a call-out to all the sexist bullshit going on out there and the power of inner strength to make it stop.

Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine (20th Anniversary Reissue), released 26 October. “Closing Time” may have been their biggest and only hit, but the rest of the album it’s from is simply amazing. Dan Wilson and Co. are stellar songwriters that know how to craft catchy tunes that get stuck in your head for days. This re-release has been remastered (it sounds much warmer than the original) and contains four b-sides as well.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, IC-01 Hanoi, released 26 October. An unexpected but fascinating follow-up to their Sex & Food record from earlier this year, it’s an all-instrumental jazz-rock record that sounds a little like Meddle-era Pink Floyd with its swampy jam sound.

Thom Yorke, Suspiria OST, released 26 October. No big surprise that Yorke was tapped to do the score for the remake of the 1977 Italian horror flick, as it’s full of weirdness and creepiness that was only hinted at on the darker edges of Radiohead’s Kid A, Amnesiac and A Moon Shaped Pool. There’s a lot of instrumental score going on, but there’s also some great full-song tracks such as “Suspirium”. Worth checking out.

*

Next Up: November New Releases!