2018 – The Year in Review – Music – Top Albums

Wait, is 2018 over already? I managed to squeeze in a whole bunch of music listening this year, soundtracking every waking minute of my life with some fresh tunes streaming off the world wide webbings, passing through some algorithms harvesting my every play, skip and replay, traversing the atmosphere, finally emitting from whatever untethered speaker setup is handy at the moment. What a world.

Without further ado, here are my top ten albums of 2018:

10 kacey musgraves

10. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Darlin’, you take the high horse, and I’ll take the high road
If you’re too good for us, you’ll be good ridin’ solo

~ “High Horse”

Instantly wonderful. Front-loaded with catchy melodies and concepts ranging from the mundane to the holy, every touch is illuminated by Musgraves’ beautiful singing voice and distinct East-Texas twang. Hailing from Mineola, Texas, she represents a bright future both musically and with regard to the shifting, growing worldview of this generation, who must inherit the legacy of their damaged forebears.

9 anenon

9. Anenon – Tongue

Musician and composer Brian Allen Simon has delivered, “A jazz album, an electronic album, an ambient album, a classical album, an agnostic spiritual” in Tongue.

8 oneohtrix point never

8. Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of

And a tower casts a shadow
Fairest when you speak
I love it when I see you
In a state of disbelief

~ “Babylon”

Daniel Lopatin returns to his Oneohtrix Point Never alias to release one of the year’s most inscrutable albums. The auditory equivalent of stirring together every medium of analog and digital recording from the past 35 years, along with a light sauté of auto-tuned vocals. Age Of rewards many repeat listens.

7 tmbg

7. They Might Be Giants – I Like Fun

We die alone, we die afraid
We live in error, we’re naked and alone
We die (Afraid)

~ “Last Wave”

Taking the highlights of their Dial-A-Song club and compiling them into a proper studio album, TMBG released a tightly-wound, anthemic album that functions just as well as a distracting and cerebral pop medley as it does as a polemic about America’s current political landscape. Death, despair and various forms of outrage fueled the Johns and propel the resulting material into the rarified air of a foot-tapping, hilarious album that is staring into the abyss the entire time.

6 mountain man

6. Mountain Man – Magic Ship

Amelia Meath, Molly Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig comprise the vocal trio Mountain Man. If the sirens from O Brother, Where Art Thou? went into a remote studio to record an album with only their beguiling voices and a dusty songbook from an Appalachian cabin, I imagine that the result might resemble Magic Ship.

5 mitski

5. Mitski – Be the Cowboy

But as it is, and it is
We’re just two slow dancers
Last ones out

~ “Two Slow Dancers”

Mitski Miyawaki’s tour-de-force followup to 2016’s excellent Puberty 2 ups the ante in every possible way. Wall-to-wall hooks, incisive songwriting chops and a preternatural prowess for expressing complex and nuanced thoughts within a head-banger make this album a huge standout for me. Approachable, warm, and yet filled with hard edges.

4 damien jurado

4. Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed

What good is living if you can’t write your ending?
You’re always in doubt of the truths you’re defending
Seeing yourself in others’ ideas, I’ll write you from somewhere
And call you from later on

~ “The Last Great Washington State”

Damien Jurado is an artist who consistently shows up in my Year-End lists of best music. His songwriting sensibilities, soft, crooning voice, and laconic, gently bouncing tempo put me in a groove that I seldom want to get out of. His latest album, and the first produced without the aid of the late Richard Swift in a number of years, finds Jurado continuing to write short stories to cut his protagonists adrift in. But it’s a pleasure cruise as much as a spiritual journey.

3 soccer mommy

3. Soccer Mommy – Clean

You’re made from the stars
That we watch from your car
And I’m just a victim of changing planets
My Scorpio rising and my parents

~ “Scorpio Rising”

A brand-new artist, to me, in 2018, Soccer Mommy is the solo project of Sophie Allison, currently based in Nashville, TN. Clean is a wistful, sad record that is constantly searching for the twinkle of light emanating from the heavens to chart a course by. Like every other album I’ve chosen for this list, it’s one that is rewards full, repeat listens. Pulling just one song or composition out of the whole seems do diminish the overall effect.

2 beach house

2. Beach House – 7

And I know you like it
So you try to hide it
And I know you like it
So I dive to find it

~ “Dive”

A number of years ago I wrote of Spoon’s album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, in essence that, like JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations, they had created a body of work that so fully established their sonic fingerprint as at once recognizable and that seems so blatantly obvious when you hear it, that it almost makes you wonder if they have to try anymore. Repeat listens will reveal that, yes, they do try very hard indeed.

On Beach Houses’s 7th LP, aptly named 7, they’ve attained this same level of mastery. As though an entire planet was just finished being terraformed by only Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, and now you can go live on it. The production values have gone up, the palette has evolved from a rural hamlet to a glittering metropolis with a full-on nightlife club scene.

1 low

1. Low – Double Negative

Saw you dancing when the fire went out
Before your breathe and barely audible
It’s more of let it out than let it go
It’s not the end it’s just the end of hope

~ “Dancing and Fire”

Low are the last musical act I ever expected to unleash the jangling, sonic avalanche of existential dread that is Double Negative. If ever there was a group whose sound seems to have cut the wagon tracks too deep to leave their path, they’d be it, in my book. Now, it seems to me that there is no group better-suited to deliver the harrowing message this one does.

Alan Sparkhawk & Mimi Parker have here repeatedly torn apart an entire album and then reconstructed it from salvage, eventually delivering the result that falls like the wrath of the gods, a thunderclap, visited with the same sudden violence and irresistible force as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, blanketing your eardrums like Pompeii. Thoughts wink out, frozen inside your mind under a layer of ash that will preserve their shape for millennia

Double Negative is a harbinger of spiritual cataclysm; invective and paean disassembled to the atomic level and then bashed against each other to create an elemental reaction. Amidst the self-immolating bonfire of ‘christendom,’ Low is conducts the cacophonous orchestra unfolding its Requiem. A shattering achievement.

2018 Albums (a complete-ish list)

  1. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
  2. Adrienne Lenker – abysskiss
  3. Adventure Time – Adventure Time: Come Along With Me (Music from the Original TV Series)
  4. A.A.L. (Against All Logic) – 2012-2017
  5. Albert Hammond Jr. – Francis Trouble
  6. Alejandro Escovedo – The Crossing
  7. Alias – Forever is Orchestra
  8. Alias & Doseone – Less is Orchestra
  9. All Them Witches – ATW
  10. Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water
  11. Amen Dunes – Freedom
  12. Anenon – Tongue
  13. Arp – ZEBRA
  14. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino
  15. Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere
  16. Beach House – 7
  17. Beacon – Gravity Pairs
  18. The Beths – Future Me Hates Me
  19. Betty LaVette – Things Have Changed
  20. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine
  21. boygeniuis – boygenius EP
  22. Buffalo Tom – Quiet and Peace
  23. Calexico – The Thread that Keeps Us
  24. Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends
  25. Carter Burwell – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  26. Chaos Chaos – Chaos Chaos
  27. Christina Vantzou – No. 4
  28. Chromatics – Black Walls EP
  29. Chromatics – Blue Girl EP
  30. Chromatics – Camera
  31. Chromatics – Shadow (12 Inch Remixes)
  32. CHVRCHES – Love is Dead
  33. Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning
  34. Cobra Man – New Driveway Soundtrack
  35. Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels (Reissue)
  36. Cocteau Twins – Treasure (Reissue)
  37. Connan Mockasin – Jassbusters
  38. Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain
  39. Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed
  40. David Byrne – American Utopia
  41. Dead Can Dance – Dionysus
  42. Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today
  43. The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl
  44. Devotchka – This Night Falls Forever
  45. Dirty Projectors – Lamp Lit Prose
  46. David Byrne – American Utopia
  47. Dungen & Woods – Myths 003
  48. Empress Of – Us
  49. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
  50. Field Report – Summertime Songs
  51. Flasher – Constant Image
  52. Frankel – The Future
  53. Geoff Knorr – Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise & Fall (Original Game Soundtrack)
  54. Geotic – Traversa
  55. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
  56. Goth Babe – Pacific II – Single
  57. Goth Babe – Point Mugu – EP
  58. Grouper – Grid of Points
  59. The Golden Filter – Still // Alone
  60. Haley Heynderickx – I Need to Start a Garden
  61. Hovvdy – Cranberrys
  62. How to Dress Well – The Anteroom
  63. I’m With Her – See You Around
  64. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
  65. Jeff Tweedy – WARM
  66. Jeffrey Lewis – Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010)
  67. Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink
  68. Jim James – Uniform Distortion
  69. Joey Dosik – Inside Voice
  70. Jóhann Jóhannsson – Mandy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  71. John Hiatt – The Eclipse Sessions
  72. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
  73. Johnny Jewel – Digital Rain
  74. Johnny Jewel – Themes for Television
  75. Johnny Jewel – Vapor
  76. Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  77. Josh Rouse – Love in the Modern Age
  78. JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
  79. Julia Holter – Aviary
  80. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
  81. Karl Blau – Out Her Space
  82. Kelly Moran – Ultraviolet
  83. Kilchhofer – The Book Room
  84. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
  85. Lala Lala – The Lamb
  86. The Lemon Twigs – Go to School
  87. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
  88. Lord Huron – Vide Noir
  89. Low – Double Negative
  90. Lucy Dacus – Historian
  91. Lykke Li – so sad so sexy
  92. Max Richter – Sleep
  93. Martyn – Voids
  94. MGMT – Little Dark Age
  95. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
  96. Mount Eerie – Now Only
  97. Mountain Man – Magic Ship
  98. The National – Boxer (Live in Brussels)
  99. Neko Case – Hell On
  100. Nils Frahm – All Melody
  101. Okkervil River – In the Rainbow Rain
  102. Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of
  103. Oneohtrix Point Never – The Station EP
  104. Oneohtrix Point Never – Love in the Time of Lexapro EP
  105. Ought – Room Inside the World
  106. PAINT – PAINT
  107. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
  108. Paul Kelly – Nature
  109. Paul Simon – In the Blue Light
  110. Peggy Gou – Once EP
  111. Phosphorescent – C’est la Vie
  112. Pick a Piper – Distance
  113. Porches – The House
  114. Ramin Djawadi – Westworld: Season 2 
  115. Ramp – Come Into Knowledge (1977)
  116. Rick and Morty – The Rick and Morty Soundtrack
  117. Richard Swift – The Hex
  118. Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers
  119. Robyn – Honey
  120. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
  121. Roosevelt – Young Romance
  122. S U R V I V E – RR7400: LA041717
  123. S. Carey – Hundred Acres
  124. Say Lou Lou – Immortelle
  125. Sam Evian – Premium
  126. Shame – Songs of Praise
  127. Sigur Rós – Route One
  128. The Shins – Heartworms
  129. sir Was – Digging a Tunnel
  130. Snail Mail – Lush
  131. Soccer Mommy – Clean
  132. SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
  133. Spirit Award – Muted Crowd
  134. Spirit Fest – Anohito
  135. Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt
  136. St. Vincent – MassEductation
  137. Stryper – God Damn Evil
  138. Sufjan Stevens – Lonely Man of Winter – Single
  139. Sunflower Bean – Twentytwo in Blue
  140. Superorganism – Superorganisms
  141. System – Plus
  142. Taraval – Aardvark – Single
  143. Thee Oh Sees – Smote Reverser
  144. They Might Be Giants – I Like Fun
  145. Tim Hecker – Konoyo
  146. Thom Yorke – Suspiria (Music from the Luca Guadagnino Film)
  147. Thor Rixson – Songs from the Bath
  148. U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited
  149. Wild Nothing – Indigo
  150. Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going On
  151. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
  152. Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love
  153. Zola Jesus & Johnny Jewel – Wiseblood (Johnny Jewel Remixes)

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