Monday, December 17, 2018

2018 Honorable Mentions/Overlooked Favorite Records

I selected 25 Favorite Albums for 2018, mainly because work commitments made it difficult for me to even get 25 out there. As a result, there were many albums I wanted to include but couldn't. This is a list of those records that just missed the cut, as well as, some albums that I hadn't listened to until recently that deserved mention.

1. Christine and the Queens - Chris

Sleek and sophisticated French synthpop.

2. Mariah Carey - Caution

Although her voice is not what it once was, it still remains powerful. Caution was a record that seemed to know exactly what it was, and effortlessly delivered a set of tracks devoid of filler.

3. IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistance.

Blistering post-punk that burns the house down.

4. Rita Ora - Phoenix

Pretty much this year's perfect pop record.

5. Beacon - Gravity Pairs

More elegantly icy synthpop from the Brooklyn duo.

6. Robyn - Honey

While the songs aren't that dancefloor ready, they definitely speak to the rough couple of years Robyn went through.

7. TT - LoveLaws

Warpaint's Theresa Wayman's solo project under the TT moniker was a liquidy, underwater exploration of her band's more electronic leanings.

8. The Armed - Only Love

Intense, experimental hardcore from the Detroit-based band.

9. Aphex Twin - Collapse EP

Richard D. James still has a lot left in him. Collapse shows that his ear and gift for melody is unsurpassed.

10. Soccer Mommy - Clean

Gorgeous indie rock.

Friday, December 14, 2018

2018 Favorite Albums (5-1)

And finally, my top albums of the year:

5. The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Brash, bold, insufferably pretentious, overstuffed, brilliant, and a record that is completely of its time.

4. Low - Double Negative

Low completely subvert their traditional slowcore sound on this astonishing record. Double Negative is a sinister, haunting look at the horrific state of the world, with the band's harmonies clouded and manipulated with electronic effects.

3. Half Waif - Lavender

Emotionally resonant synthpop. Nandi Rose Plunkett draws you in with her warm voice and insightful lyrics, while the dense layered keyboards and beats wraps you up and holds tight.

2. Yves Tumor - Safe in the Hands of Love

2018 was the year experimental pop made great strides. And no one was more brilliant than Yves Tumor, who crafted some of the most challenging and yet catchy music of the year. Safe in the Hands of Love dove straight into the abyss of toxic relationships and the dangers of modern living. I am still trying to catch my breath.

1. Rosalía - El Mal Querer

Rosalía's modern update of flamenco music is a witness to the future of music, and is my album of the year. El Mal Querer blurs the lines between pop, flamenco, R&B, hip-hop, and is the type of music that defies quick categorization and transcends borders.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018 Favorite Albums (10-6)

Almost to the end of my countdown of favorite albums:


Experimental electronic producer SOPHIE bends and twists her compositions into interesting shapes and textures while always finding moments of pure beauty.

9. Beach House - 7

On 7, Beach House open up and expand their sound while still remaining the wonderful band they've always been.

8. Beacon - Gravity Pairs

More exquisitely icy synth pop from Brooklyn duo Beacon, who added more organic and human elements to their trademark sound.

7. Ness Nite - Dreamgirl

Ness Nite's Dream Girl reminded me a lot of listening to early Neneh Cherry, where there are no single genres; where hip-hop, pop, R&B, and electronic music all reside together in perfect harmony.

6. Charli XCX - Pop 2

Future pop at its finest.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Favorite Albums (15-11)

More of my countdown of favorite albums of 2018:

15. Drug Church - Cheer

Drug Church draw their sound from bands like Pixies, Jawbreaker, and Fugazi but have fashioned them into their own unique sound. They have also fashioned the best hardcore record of the year, full of massive hooks and serated guitars.

14. Neneh Cherry - Broken Politics

While her sound is now far removed from her sassy, bratty style of Raw Like Sushi, Neneh Cherry is still unmistakably Neneh Cherry. Most of the tracks on Broken Politics are spare and minimal, drawing their power from her commanding voice, however, occasionally she lets loose, as on the jazzy "Natural Skin Deep."

13. How to Dress Well - The Anteroom

Most of Tom Krell's output under the How to Dress Well moniker has been rooting in future R&B, however, he's gone almost full on industrial on the brilliantly experimental album The Anteroom.

12. Skee Mask - Compro

Skee Mask brilliantly combines both analog and digital instrumentation in his dancefloor and ambient techno creations. His work on Compro brings to mind early Autechre and Aphex Twin.

11. Jon Hopkins - Singularity

Hopkins takes you on a journey through uncharted worlds on the masterful Singularity. There are so many textures in these tracks you can practically reach out and touch them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 Favorite Albums (20-16)

Continuing my countdown of my favorite albums of 2018:

20. The Amazing - In Transit

This Swedish band continues to impress with their intricate sonic explorations. On their fifth record In Transit they bring more emotion and rawness to the proceedings, but still maintain their massive, oceanic sound.

19. Drake - Scorpion

Yes, it is overlong, stuffed with some filler, and is rather a mess. But what would Drake be without broadcasting everything about his life? He still maintains his undisputed reign over hip-hop, R&B, and pop.

18. SALES - forever & ever

There is something exquisitely sublime about this bedroom/dream pop record. The sleek, sparkling production draws you into SALES' atmospheric world.

17. Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears

I'm All Ears is this year's most gonzo pop record. What's more amazing is that these two women are only 19, and show so much originality and verve. It's going to be very exciting to see what they do in their career.

16. MGMT - Little Dark Age

Where MGMT finally stop hiding the hooks. Brilliant and much welcome return to form.

Monday, December 10, 2018

2018 Favorite Albums (25-21)

This week I countdown my top albums of 2018. Here are numbers 25-21:

25. Snail Mail - Lush

Lindsey Jordan, who writes and records under the moniker Snail Mail, writes pristine indie rock songs that shine and shimmer.

24. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food

If Prince had been in Tame Impala, he likely would have come up with a record as magical as Sex & Food. Going from psychedelic rave-ups, funk work outs, and intimate acoustic ballads with ease, Unknown Mortal Orchestra has crafted this years most compellingly odd pop record.

23. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Sparkle Hard

There isn't a weak track on this record, which finds Malkmus finding the right balance between his ironic self musings and his gift for raucous experimentation. You can listen to the album here.

22. Chvrches - Love is Dead

While Chvrches may have buffed their sound to a high gloss sheen, they have not lost their ability to throw down some evocative lyrics along with earworm hooks.

21. Helena Deland - From the Series of Songs "Altogether Unaccompanied" Vols. I-IV

This group of EPs was astonishing in its breadth, moving effortlessly between singer-song writer confessional tracks to moody, atmospheric trip-hop inspired musings.

Friday, December 7, 2018

2018 Favorite Songs (10-1)

And finally, without further ado, my top ten favorite songs of the year:

10. Yves Tumor - "Licking an Orchid"

The dramatic centerpiece to Yves Tumor's masterful record Safe in the Arms of Love. Trip hop beats anchor simple acoustic guitar strains over pillowy synths before descending into oceans of squalling guitars. It's a wonderful exploration of the tension between the beautiful and ugly. It's mirrored in the evocative lyrics which explore a possible S&M relationship, with lines like “Some call it pain/Some call it torture/Baby I enjoy it."

9. Neneh Cherry - "Kong"

Produced by Four Tet and Massive Attack's 3D, Neneh Cherry's "Kong" draws you in closely with its elegant minimalism. Dubby bass, a simple hi-hat, and mournful strings are the simple backdrop to Cherry's aching voice.

8. Ness Nite - "Tightrope"

Ness Nite's tracks effortlessly blur the lines between electronica, R&B, and hip-hop. "Tightrope" is the perfect example.

7. Drake ft. Michael Jackson - "Don't Matter to Me"

A haunting Michael Jackson sample elevates this track to sublime perfection. You can listen to it here.

6. AlunaGeorge ft. Cautious Clay - "Superior Emotion"

This emotionally resonant track from AlunaGeorge will stay with you for days. Aluna Francis' touching vocal hits all the right spots.

5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Hunnybee"

Sexy, slinky, funky, and a little bit goofy, "Hunnybee" was my favorite go-to get a smile on my face song this year. Trust me, you will succumb to its charms.

4. The Amazing - "Benson se Convirtio Completamente Furiosa"

Nine minutes of pure, achingly beautiful guitar soundscapes.

3. Gotts Street Park ft. Celeste - "Both Sides of the Moon (Live)"

You won't find a better vocal performance than this deeply emotional track. It's gut-wrenching.

2. Rosalia - "Malamente"

Rosalia's gorgeous modernization of flamenco is sublime.

1. Rufus Du Sol - "Underwater"

This was a pretty bad year for myself, and this song spoke so specifically to me. Its raw honesty and emotion is difficult to listen to, but impossible to turn away from.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

2018 Favorite Songs (20-11)

Almost to the end of my favorite songs:

20. Mariah Carey - "GTFO"

The best kiss-off song since Beyonce's "Irreplaceable."

19. HEALTH/Soccer Mommy - "Mass Grave"

HEALTH ended the year with a series of collaborative singles. This song featuring Soccer Mommy is one of those things that on paper doesn't seem like it would work, but in execution is stunning in its scope, with epic synths propelling the intertwined vocals.

18. George Fitzgerald ft. Tracey Thorn - "Half Light (Night Version)"

Pretty much any song is going to be elevated with Tracey Thorn singing. Her gorgeously earthy voice grounds the twinkly synths and skittering drum programming from house producer Fitzgerald.

17. The Presets ft. The DMAs - "Are you Here?"

The Presets team up with The DMAs with this big beat track that recalls the brilliant collaborations between The Chemical Brothers and Noel Gallagher.

16. Banoffee - "Muscle Memory"

Dark pop track from Banoffee that details the physical torments that come from a breakup.

15. Low - "Always Trying to Work it Out"

Even burying their vocals under a sea of electronics can't hide the beauty of Low's harmonies.

14 Darkstar - "Since There Is Only You"

Repetition of individual motifs swirls you into a hypnotic state in this elegant track from Darkstar. You can listen to it here.

13. How to Dress Well - "Nothing"

How to Dress well goes full on industrial in the blistering track "Nothing."

12. The 1975 - "Love It If We Made It"

Nobody does over-the-top pop quite like The 1975.

11. DJ Kose - "Pick Up"

This was my song of the summer. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity: looped strings, a lovely guitar riff, an insistent bassline, a disco beat, and a haunting Gladys Knight vocal sample. This song could go on and on forever, and I would not be mad about it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2018 Favorite Songs (30-21)

And now we reach the halfway point of my review of favorite songs of 2018:

30. Jon Hopkins - "Emerald Rush"

Always be sure to listen to the full version of this song. Hopkins provides a master class in how to properly build an electronic track. The emotions and energy of this one are palpable.

29. Lauren Auder - "for those that patiently endure"

Recalling the experimental pop of Scott Walker, Lauren Auder's music is both hauntingly intimate and grandiosely epic.

28. LO ft. Elouiz - "Last Call"

Producer LO had a great year with different collaborations. "Last Call," featuring the vocals of Elouiz, is a thumping dance track that is all about having fun at the club until the last song plays.

27. Georgia - "Started Out"

UK producer/singer Georgia beguiles with this throbbing, sinuous confection.

26. A$AP Rocky ft. FKA Twigs - "Fukk Sleep"

Killer collaboration between A$AP Rocky and FKA twigs makes you ask why it took so long for them to work together.

25. Chvrches - "Graves"

Chvrches went technicolor pop on their latest record Love is Dead, but they thankfully didn't lose their identity in the process. "Graves" is hook-ridden gold.

24. Beach House - "Black Car"

Just when I thought Beach House had done everything they could do with their sound, they slap me across the face with the brilliant reinvention of 7. "Black Car" takes their sound to an even more hypnotic place.

23. The Carters - "APESHIT"

Jeep-rattling collaboration between Jay-Z and Beyonce.

22. Half Waif - "Silt"

This song haunted me all year long. Her voice is achingly tender and gorgeous.

21. Sophie - "Faceshopping"

Epic bass-heavy track that will melt your face.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

2018 Favorite Songs (40-31)

Continuing my review of my favorite songs of 2018:

40. Jacques Greene - "Nordschleife"

Gently propulsive track from Canadian producer Jacques Greene that melds together deep house, garage, and ambient into something sensuous.

39. Haux - "Heartbeat"

Tender, searching electronic ballad from up and coming artist Haux.

38. Rita Ora - "Only Want You"

From her record Phoenix, the best pop album of the year, Rita Ora pours her heart and soul into this guitar-driven track that soars with an amazing vocal turn.

37. Calvin Harris ft. Sam Smith - "Promises"

Euphoric dance track from Calvin Harris featuring a velvety smooth vocal from Sam Smith that is effortlessly beautiful.

36. FEMME - "All For You"

Looking at my list of favorite songs it is interesting to me that it is mostly women who fill it up. Women this year fucking ruled, putting out great stuff. FEMME's catchy house-pop was always a consistent fave. "All for You" is impossible to sit still to; just give in to the rush.

35. Cassie - "Don't Play It Safe"

Sleek, sultry R&B track that highlights Cassie's buttery vocals.

34. Denitia - "Never Told You"

Trip-hop made a big comeback this year with several artists crafting exquisite singles mining the atmospheric genre. Denitia's single "Never Told You" feels like a long lost Massive Attack track.

33. Helena Deland - "Take it All"

Speaking of trip-hop, singer-songwriter Helena Deland looked to it for inspiration on the moody, haunting song "Take it All."

32. Art School Girlfriend - "Outside"

I was captivated by the atmospheric music of Art School Girlfriend all year. "Outside" focuses on her dreamy vocals, but is buoyed by swooning synths and clattering percussion.

31. Robyn - "Ever Again"

With the majority of people bemoaning the fact that Robyn's new record was not filled to the brim with dancefloor bangers, they failed to notice that it was filled with gorgeous pop songs. "Ever Again" is a beautifully understated look into heartbreak.

Monday, December 3, 2018

2018 Favorite Songs (50-41)

It's that time of year again! I will be sharing my list of my favorite songs of 2018 this week, followed by my list of top albums next week. So let's jump right to it, with numbers 50-41:

50. Bearcubs - "Landslide"

Haunting, James Blake-esque track from Bearcubs that revels in a sort of electronic underwater murkiness, but keeping the emotions crystal clear.

49. cupcakKe - "Duck Duck Goose" (NSFW)"

Gloriously filthy rap from the inimitable cupcaKKe.

48. Janelle Monae ft. Grimes - "Pynk"

Feminist anthem from the always evocative Janelle Monae.

47. Let's Eat Grandma - "Hot Pink"

Produced by experimental producer SOPHIE, duo Let's Eat Grandma throw down this slamming track with clattering percussion, buzz saw synths, and moments of extreme beauty.

46. DRAMA - "Fuck Dave"

Although the title of this song makes it sound like this will be a raucous, punk jam, it is actually a somber, Sade-esque exploration of a doomed relationship.

45. Death Cab for Cutie - "Northern Lights"

Death Cab for Cutie go for a "Just Like Heaven" Cure vibe on this driving track that shows the band still has it in them to beguile with their charms.

44. Now Now - "Window"

Swooning synths propel this achingly heartfelt ballad.

43. MGMT - "When You Die"

Goofy, folky synth rock track from MGMT which finds them finally going back to making fun, catchy as hell songs.

42. Johnny Marr - "Hi Hello"

Gorgeous track that borrows from Marr's classic guitar lines in "There is a Light and it Never Goes Out."

41. Matt Lange - "Bleed Together"

Producer Matt Lange evokes a Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode vibe on this moody number.