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!

Mixtape: Listen in Silence XXIV

Yes, the current volume of Listen In Silence is number twenty-four.  Not bad for a mixtape series I started back in 1988, yeah?  Missed a few years in between, but I’m glad to say after I resurrected it, it’s still going strong.  The links are for the YouTube videos because I can’t be arsed to attempt to build a Spotify playlist right now.  Enjoy!

Side 1
1. John Hardy, “Hidden Title Theme”
2. Gorillaz feat. George Benson, “Humility”
3. Bob Moses, “Heaven Only Knows”
4. Mitski, “Nobody”
5. Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”
6. The Kooks, “No Pressure”
7. Eric Bachmann, “Daylight”
8. tunng, “Crow”
9. Metric, “Dark Saturday”
10. James, “Many Faces”
11. Lucy Dacus, “Night Shift”

Side 2
1. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”
2. Gorillaz, “Tranz”
3. tunng, “Dark Heart”
4. Dog Party, “Operator”
5. Nothing, “Us/We/Are”
6. Paul McCartney, “Fuh You”
7. The Neighbourhood, “Softcore”
8. Jungle, “Happy Man”
9. Failure, “Heavy and Blind”
10. Art Brut, “Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!”
11. The London Suede, “The Invisibles”
12. ShadowParty, “Celebrate”
13. Mogwai, “We’re Not Done (End Title)”

More Thoughts on Mixtaping in the 21st Century

memorex dbs gif

I know, I know… they call it making a playlist now.  You grab a few tracks from Spotify and gather them together and call it done.  Where it used to take a good couple of hours to make one on a 90-minute cassette, now it only takes an hour, if that.

As I’ve explained before, my current mixtape creation process is by way of copying mp3s into a new folder, shuffling them into some semblance of order, and retagging them accordingly.  I’m keeping it old-school by having a sort-of-physical end result instead of a playlist.

I’ve noticed over the past few years that one thing hasn’t changed:  the urge to make a mixtape usually comes from hearing a specific song that I truly love.  For instance, my current obsession with Bob Moses’ “Heaven Only Knows” has inspired me to throw the next Listen in Silence mix together.  From there I’ll think a bit about what other songs caught my attention over the last few months.  They’ll just as often be tracks I’ve been hearing on Indie617 or SiriusXM as they’ll be deep cuts from newer albums I’ve downloaded.  The rest of the process is still the same, asking the same questions: what’s the best opening track?  Closing track?  Which songs segue the best?  Which ones sound awkward?  The only thing really missing is writing out the tracks on the c-card.

Do I listen to these after I’ve made them?  Sure!  I listen to them a lot, actually, just as I always have.  I listen to them during writing sessions, during the Day Job, or when I’m at the gym.  And they’re great to listen to on long flights as well.  I’ll even listen to older ones I’d made a few years previous.

I don’t share them as much as I used to, though.  Back in high school I’d give my buddy Chris the track list or make a copy of it for him.  I used to make the occasional mixtape for my then girlfriends of course, but for the most part I made them for my own enjoyment.  And that’s cool too.  Come to think of it, I should probably start posting some of them here.  I haven’t used my Spotify account in ages, so perhaps it’s time to dust it off and create some of my mixtapes for your enjoyment!

Favorite Tracks: The Boys of Summer

It’s that time of year again. The time when I get all nostalgic about the end of a season, when I talk about how the days are getting shorter, the weather’s getting cooler, and all the kids are back in school.  When I start binge-listening to Cocteau Twins and other early 4AD bands.  When I get another one of those itches to write moody poetry and song lyrics.  And of course, when I start reminiscing about all the great albums that came out in the fourth quarter during my record store years.

Well, I could go on about those things, but I think I’ve already done them enough times for the time being, so I’ll spare you those entries for now.  Heh.

On the other hand, I will say that “The Boys of Summer” is quite possibly the best end-of-summer song ever written.

It started out as an instrumental demo written by Mike Campbell (guitarist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), initially for inclusion somewhere on their Southern Accents album but unused.  After hearing Don Henley needed some music, he let him listen to the demo, and almost immediately, Henley had words for it.

It’s not just a song about the passage of time, however.  It’s not a song about wondering where childhood went, although on the surface there is that theme.  It’s more about, as Henley said in a Rolling Stone interview, the idea of aging and questioning the past.

In a way, it might have a passing similarity in theme to The Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer”, but in all honesty, it’s more similar to The The’s “Jealous of Youth” in terms of theme.  It’s not a happy song, but neither is it a sad one.  It’s about coming to terms with the age you’re presently at, and all the conflicts that come along with it.  Feeling too old to embrace the wonder of summer, but too young to let it go.  Feeling frustrated when the signs of age sneak up on you unexpectedly — even if it’s in the form of a sticker of a nonconformist band’s logo on the bumper of a high-end car.

It’s a gorgeous melody, all told.  It’s high and hopeful, yet sad and lonesome at the same time.  It’s fast and tense, yet so delicately produced that it feels fragile.  Even the punk cover done by The Ataris in 2003 retains that mood, changing only the bumper sticker to Black Flag’s, making the song all the more poignant for us Gen-Xers.

2018: Favorite Tunes of the Year, So Far

All the cool kids and music blogs are doing it, so I might as well do the same!  Here’s some of my favorite tunes for the first half of 2018.  It’s been an interesting year for releases… lots of new names mixing in with the current ones, as well as a few classic bands making a welcome return after a long hiatus.

The Neighbhourhood, “Dust”. First popped up on their To Imagine EP and then as a bonus track on the deluxe version of their self-titled album. This is not the pop of “Sweater Weather” but the weird synthpop of 1981. I love the direction this band went in. I especially like the way they ended this track.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Little Thing Gone Wild”. Wrong Creatures is a fantastic record from start to finish, probably my favorite of theirs at the moment. I love the groovy unhinged blues of this particular track.

tUnE-yArDs, “Heart Attack”. Such emotion and power behind this track! I love cracking this one up whenever it comes on. It’s in my top 5 right now.

GoGo Penguin, “Raven”. I’m usually never this excited about a jazz band, but these guys blow me away every time I listen to them. They blend trio jazz and drum-and-bass beats so amazingly well on this track that by the time it’s over I wish it was still going.

Lucius, “Woman”. An absolutely gorgeous vocal duet. I love where the melody and the lyrics go with this one. It kind of reminds me of how the Indigo Girls’ vocals often play off each other, with a bit of Lennon-McCartney thrown in.

The Decemberists, “Severed”. The band goes in an unexpectedly weird and creepy direction — Colin Meloy states that it was a deliberate move to sound like their early influences like the Cure — and they pull it off well.

The Damned, “Standing On the Edge of Tomorrow”. I love how they’ve decided to revisit their early 80s sound here — this would fit quite nicely on Phantasmagoria or even The Black Album — and gave it a modern twist.

Snow Patrol, “Life on Earth”. This one tops my list so far, for many reasons. It feels like a song that’s needed right about now, as well.

I should probably post my favorite albums so far as well…maybe I’ll do that on Thursday! 🙂

A few favorite moments…

A little while back, Pitchfork posted an article in which some of their staffers list their favorite moments in certain songs.  This of course got me thinking of some of my own favorite moments…  I’m sure I could come up with a huge list, but off the top of my head, these are the ones that I come back to the most.

The Beatles, “A Day in the Life” at 2:45 — the transition between Paul’s “woke up/fell out of bed” sequence and the last verse by John, when John’s ‘ah-ah-ah’ vocals crossfade with the brass section. It’s a brilliant bit of mixing there.

Failure, “Daylight”, at 2:11 — The last verse of this doom-laden mindtrip goes from swirly dreamlike dystopia to face-punching guitar and drum crunch. Keep going and you get a hell of a great soaring guitar solo as well. This song is meant to be listed to as loud as you can get it.

Failure, “The Nurse Who Loved Me”, the last minute and a half. There’s something mathematically perfect about this ending that I love, where every beat is where it’s supposed to be…. and then drops out at the last few seconds for the last line.

The La’s, “Looking Glass”… at 5:00 — the point just after one of the final rounds of the chorus where the song breaks down, a calm moment in the music where Lee Mavers sings a plaintive ‘la-la-la’, just before the final extended instrumental round finishes off the piece. This moment inspired the “Listening” live scene near the end of Meet the Lidwells.

Lush, “Nothing Natural”… at 3:44 when the song stops cold and changes direction, the guitars leading the way, and at 5:00 when the bass drops out for another soaring moment.

Depeche Mode, “Stripped (Highland Mix)”… another soaring moment, this time at 3:53 when most of the instrumentation drops out, leaving only the various sequencer licks playing, until moments later when the drums slam the song back down to earth.

Love and Rockets, “Sweet Lover Hangover”… the band breakdown and David J’s bass bringing them back up to speed.

*

No fear, dear readers…it’s been a long weekend full of a lot of events, so hopefully I’ll be back up to speed with more exciting posts on Thursday!