Favorite Albums of 2018

I never would have thought that the list for my favorite albums of the year would be postponed until the end of January, but such is life. Last year dealt me one crazy unexpected twist after another, leaving me with very little energy, time or motivation to give to this project. The latest part of my medical journey is taking place in two weeks, so I'm writing this post as a form of catharsis to deal with the anxiety over the procedure that I need to undergo soon.

Over the past two months I have been tirelessly working on listening to a plethora of music from 2018, eventually weeding my list down to 10 favorite albums and 10 honorable mentions.  I feel that these twenty albums are the most deserving this year, despite what the mass media and public opinion would like you to believe. This year's list was mostly a result of things that I discovered by reading blogs like Aquarium Drunkard, Doom and Gloom from the Tomb and Raven Sings the Blues, with a few things that I searched out on my own. I didn't go through every single year-end list combing through them for ideas like some of the previous years. Instead, I went mostly with records that I actually listened to multiple times and had been appreciating throughout the year.

I hope you enjoy the list this year, and that this fuels your desire to listen to more music!

1) Hermit and the Recluse- Orpheus vs the Sirens

I just reviewed this record in October, so I will leave you with a soundbite from this review "I could go on and on about the lyrical gems on this record, but doing that would be like giving away the ending to a movie you've never seen.You owe it to yourself to sit down and listen to this record with an open mind, letting the lyrics be permanently etched on your brain".

Atlas and Oedipus

2) Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog-

YRU Still Here- I remember first hearing about this record, and imagining what it would sound like, but my wildest fever dream couldn't conjure up the musical ideas presented on this record. The agitated, cacophonous punk rock fury of the opening track "Personal Nancy" segueways right into the satirical latin jazz track "Pennsylvania 6 6666". You might think that you'd heard everything that this album has to offer just when it smacks you over the head with "Oral Sidney with a U", a subdued funky instrumental track containing clipped guitar solos interspersed with electronic blips and organ stabs.  It's the title track "YRU Still Here" that seals the deal for me though with its sleepy, meditative refrain that begs the question "Why are you still here". If you don't already know the answer to this question, it will become painfully obvious once the the tempo increases towards the middle of the song, and the spiraling electric guitar reaches a crescendo.

Oral Sidney with a U and YRU Still Here

3) Mountain Man- Magic Ship-

Ever since Mountain Man's delightful debut album, I've been waiting with bated breath for new material. Little did I know at the time that it would take eight years for this to come to fruition, due mostly to Amelia Randall Meath pursuing an electro-pop project called Sylvan Esso. I tried listening to Sylvan Esso, but its slick electronic production and treated vocals sounded worlds apart from the down-home acoustic sound that made me fall in love with Mountain Man. I have to say that good things clearly come to those who wait, as the group seemingly hasn't missed a beat.  When all three of these vocalists harmonize on "agt", it's like the sound of angels opening the gates of heaven. "Rang Tang Ring Toon" is about as rollicking as this group of girls get, but it's still a completely acoustic affair. With a mix of accapella and slowly strummed folk songs, this album is perfect for the slow times in the day when you just need to reflect on your current state of mind. Mountain Man have created a beautiful piece of music that will make you feel calm inside when the days are long and arduous.

agt and  Rang Ting Ring Toon

4) Mountain Movers- Pink Skies

After Mountain Movers' self-titled record from last year made my list, it was clear that they would be one to watch in the coming years. Pink Skies is quite the departure from the sound of their last album, as it features vocals on only four tracks, with the vocals mostly an afterthought to the rest of the music. Lead guitarist Kryssi Battalene is a force to be reckoned with on the opening track "Freeway", as shards of shrapnel are channeled from her guitar directly into the listeners eardrum. On "Snowdrift", we hear the first vocals from the record, only to be largely tossed aside for the ecstatic, electrifying guitar solo that takes up over half of the track.  After the last vestiges of  the extended kraut groove on "The Other Side of Today" fade away, we are treated with another vocal track with blistering guitar solos. The album closes with the gently lilting instrumental track "Heavenly Forest" that is the soothing balm needed after being scorched by Battalene's discordant guitar for the majority of the record.

Freeway and Snowdrift

5) Minami Deutsch- With Dim Light-

Initially, I wasn't going to do a year-end list, but when a couple people were curious if I was going to do one, I decided to commit to it. Since I had already written a review for this album on my last post, I'm going to post an excerpt from that review "Aside from the down-tempo post-rock opener "Concrete Ocean", the rest of this record is a heady, cerebral mix of krautrock, psychedelia, folk and shoegaze that stands up well next to it's fellow Guruguru Brain compatriots".

Tunnel and Don't Wanna Go Back

6) Al Doum and the Faryds- Spirit Rejoin

I'm always looking for that sweet spot that lies between soul, psychedelia, and jazz, and the latest record from Al Doum and Faryd's perfectly encapsulates this mix of genres. I hadn't heard of these guys before, but was absolutely entranced by the stone cold grooves laid down by the rhythm section providing a solid backbone for the rest of the band to freely experiment with variations of wah-wah guitar, spacey flute, pumping organ and incendiary sax. The masterful opener, "Weed and Love" and the absolutely electric third track "Light Up" are worth the price of admission alone, but make sure to stick around for the slow-burner "Solchi" and the acoustic flute and bongos jam "Spirit Rejoin".

Weed and Love and Light Up

7) Nick Millevoi's Desertion Trio with Jamie Saft- Midtown Tilt

Millevoi's debut record caught my attention back in 2016, and I posted the following short take review on it "If Calexico continued to perfect their desert soaked instrumentals, it would sound something like this". The follow-up to that record kicks it up a notch musically with the addition of prolific keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist, Jamie Saft adding some more complexity and dynamics to the sound. The band waste no time pulling out all the stops on the opener "Midtown Tilt" with the rough-and-tumble improvisational drumming playing chicken with Millevoi's shredding guitar solos and the equally magnificent organ playing. Some of these tracks have a more mellow vibe with an intensity bubbling just underneath the surface like "It's a Hard World for Little Things, while others like Jai Alai Noon are masterful displays of musicality. There is so much to digest on this record that you will have to revisit it multiple times to fully appreciate the breadth of its scope.

Midtown Tilt and Jai Alai Noon

8) Jean Grae and Quelle Chris- Everything's Fine

The first collaboration between female rap wunderkind Jean Grae and independent rap phenomenon Quelle Chris is as amazing as you could possibly imagine. Jean Grae's rap skills have always been top-notch, but the rhymes she pulls off on this record are next-level great as she twists her tongue into knots with amazing dexterity, switching her cadence on a dime and exhibiting a mastery of breath control. Quelle is a good rapper in his own right, but the thing that makes his rhymes most interesting to me is the way he delivers them. On the satirical "My Contribution to this Scam", both Quelle and Grae adopt multiple personas,  lending to the dynamics of the track. The production on most of the record is low-key and sinister, but none more so than on the killer "Ohsh" with a guest feature from Hannibal Burress. The rhymes from Quelle and Grae on this record will have you nodding your head and grinning from ear to ear as both of them are swinging for the fences and clearing the yard. If you think hip-hop isn't dope anymore, I present to you exhibit a right here. Don't sleep on this one!

Ohsh and Gold Purple Orange

9)  Yuzo Iwata- Daylight Moon

Sadly, Iwata passed away shortly after the release of his debut record, but what a fantastic piece of music he left with us. It's a largely instrumental affair with the one exception being the "la, la, la" vocal refrain on the Velvet Underground-influenced "Gigolo. The aforementioned track is a swaggering, "strutting down the street with purpose" kind of song that will have you kicking up your heels as you head out for a night on the town. The next track "Border" has a darkness lurking around the corner vibe as a slow, lurching bassline gives way to an electric guitar solo that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. "Up on a Dragon Fly" is a mellow track that lets a little sunshine into your ears, while the noise-drenched "Drone Beetle" and "Daylight Moon" will satiate your inner Keijii Haino fan.  Fittingly, the album ends on a mellow note with the mesmerizing "Goodnight, Daylight Moon". You can bet that Iwata is somewhere in heaven playing his beautiful music to an adoring crowd.

Gigolo and Drone Beetle

10) Marisa Anderson- Cloud Corner

The title of Marisa Anderson's latest long player fits is perfectly as the sounds she manages to wring from the frets is reminiscent of pilowy-soft clouds. Ironically, the opening track "Pulse" has the fastest chord progression on the album, but it's far from a rave-up. It's persistent strumming in the forefront is complimented by the slower chords being played at the same time. "Slow Ascent" sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a long walk through the desert plains at dusk, while the slow progression of notes on "Angel's Rest" are utterly trance-inducing. "Cloud Corner" is the type of song that you put on in the morning when the sun has just risen and the birds are chirping away, and "Sun Song" is reminiscent of the classic flamenco sounds of Carlos Montoya. With Cloud Corner, Anderson has successfully crafted an instrumental guitar record that manages to capture the listener's attention for the duration.

Slow Ascent and Cloud Corner

Honorable Mentions:

1) Anna St.Louis- If Only There Was a River
2) Elephant9- Greatest Show on Earth
3) Sunwatchers- II
4) Kikagaku Moyo- Masana Temples
5) Terry- I'm Terry
6) Traden- S-T
7) Black Milk- Fever
8) Mick Jenkins- Pieces of a Man
9) The Breeders- All Nerve
10) Thee Oh Sees- Smote Reverser

I hope you have enjoyed this list, and that you have found something to sink your ears into in 2019!

If you are interested, I would love to hear what some of your favorite records were from 2018. 


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