Top 10 Albums 2018

December 27, 2018

I don’t know what happened (OK, I have some guesses: parenthood, losing control of the music played while I work 100% of the time, trying to please a group of 3 people with my workday music selections when I do have them), but I didn’t listen a ton of new stuff this year. But I did listen to some GREAT stuff. Four of the releases on this list would probably have topped my list in 2017.

Another thing is that my list is pretty much full of women. Eight releases of the 10 on this list are fronted by one or multiple women. The previous high over the last 13 years was 3.5 (.5 is for artists like The New Pornographers that split their lead singer duties between men and women).

I hesitate to mention this, because as many women who are on this list have pointed out “women who make music” is not a genre of music, nor is it the most notable thing about their music. But, it is a statistic I’ve been keeping track of for four years now, and it is a fact that for me, women made the vast majority of my favorite music in 2018.

There are a couple other notable things about this list. There’s an EP on it for the first time. I put it in the middle of the list, because I might rank it #2 or #3 in terms of quality but this is a list for full length albums and I didn’t feel comfortable with that. So there it is as #5.

Another thing is that there’s no rap music on this list for the first time since 2011. A few albums (Pusha T, Cardi B, Lil W) almost made the cut, but here we are. Also I considered including Chance’s 6(?) singles as an entry, because they are incredible, but they weren’t all released at the same time and were never presented as a single collection, so I opted out.

Here’s a Spotify playlist with 1 song from each of my top 10 entries.

Here’s all of my top 10s since 2006 in a spreadsheet with some charts and stuff

And, here’s a list.

10. CHVRCHES – Love is Dead

Listen on Spotify

Is this the worst of CHVRCHES 3 albums? It certainly is. Is it still pretty good? Yeah. There are some good tracks on here. This is the most electronic/dancy this list gets.

9. Moonface – This One’s For The Dancer & This One’s For Fhe Dancer’s Bouquet

Listen on Spotify

I have stated on numerous occasions that Spencer Krug is my favorite musician doing work. I saw him TWICE this year, both times with the band Wolf Parade (the first and second times I’ve seen them in my 12 years of being a fan).

This CD came out after those tours. It is too much. It is very long, and there are artistic choices made that make it fairly difficult to digest. But there are gems, and there is a lot of marimba which is just a gorgeous sounding instrument.

8. Snail Mail – Lush

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Got most of our legacy acts out of the way all the way in the lower spots of the list. Including this one, 6/8 of the remaining spots on this list are female fronted acts that I had never heard of before this year. Neat.

This album feels like a lazy summer day where it’s a little too hot to do anything. The songs, even the uptempo ones like standout track “Pristine” kind of melt over you. There’s also a song called heat wave that really sounds like a heat wave makes you feel.

I just learned while writing the paragraph above this one that Snail Mail (Lindsey Johnson) is 19! She was born in 1999. That means we’re only a year or two away from someone born in the 2000s making their debut on this list.

7. Natalie Prass – The Future And The Past

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Natalie Prass, releaser of my 2nd favorite album of 2015 is back with a completely different amazing sound. While 2015’s self titled debut had a breathy Joanna-Newsom-ness about it, 2018’s The Future and the Past is filled with funky anthems & protest songs for 2018.

Apparently she had a whole album recorded and then the 2016 election happened and she said “Nah, I’m not feeling this” and started over. So here are some jams. Jams for women, jams for not giving up, jams for love. Track 2, Short Court Style is one of my favorite jams of the year.

6. The Beths – Future Me Hates Me

Listen on Spotify

There is only 1 person named Beth in this band, as far as I know, and according to her Twitter handles she goes by Liz. Also, according to their Wikipedia page they are from New Zealand, which may be a geographical first for this list? That doesn’t sound true but I can’t think of any counterexamples and I’m not going to look it up at this time.

This album is full of punchy one liners delivered with beautiful clarity by Liz/Beth and her mail band members. Great harmonies, with still an approachable rawness that makes you want to sing along. Who doesn’t want to yell “I will go out tonight, I’m gonna drink the whole town dry”?

5. boygenius – boygenius

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This is the first EP I think I’ve ever included in the history of this list! BoyGenius is a 3 woman supergroup consisting of Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker (Listed in ascending order of popularity and loosely descending order of how much I’ve enjoyed their independent output so far to-date, though my lack of appreciation for Julien Baker I think is just due to me not spending enough time with her!)

This 21 minute EP packs in an incredible showcase of all three musicians unique talents. The way their distinct voices harmonize is a true joy. First track, Bite the Hand is a great example of that. Second track, Me & My Dog which features Phoebe Bridgers on vocals, is probably my favorite song of the year.

Finally, I just want to say that this show was the most moving musical experience I had in 2018. Can’t wait to hear more from all 3 boygeniuses, both separately and if we’re lucky, together!

4. Illuminati Hotties – Kiss Yr Frenemies

Listen on Spotify

I didn’t know this band existed, and then I saw them open for Diet Cig at Off Broadway this year and I was impressed at the show and impressed with the album which is still in my CD player in my car. I change this disc only a couple times a year.

Good solid rock album. Lot of fuzzy guitars, dramatic changes in dynamics, songs about being young and sleeping on your friends couches and trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

3. Lucy Dacus – Historian

Listen on Spotify

Night Shift, the opening track on this sublime album, has to be in contention for one of the best breakup songs of all time? It’s a big six and a half minute epic, a showcase for Dacus’s musical and vocal range.

The rest of the album is almost as good. The lyrics throughout paint vivid portraits of people in various states of broken relationship. But it’s not just the lyrics! The music is full and gorgeous and there are some moments like the penultimate Pillar of Truth where things really get loud and fun.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)

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Is this album, a song-for-song re-recording of Car Seat Headrest’s 2011 album of the same name even eligible for a 2018 best of list? I don’t know what the consensus is on this, but it’s eligible for mine!

Car Seat Headrest achieved a great growth in acclaim and recognition with their 2016 album Teens of Denial. That’s the album that put them on my radar. So mad props to their label, Matador, for letting them follow that up with such an unconventional idea.

I love this album just as much as I loved Teens of Denial and now that I’ve spent a lot of time with both the 2011 (Now referred to as “Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror)” and 2018 Face to Face version of Twin Fantasy, I think it was an excellent call to revisit the songs.

The roughness of the 2011 release has its own charms (and mentions of Dan Bejar) but the 2018 version is better in pretty much every way. It is not polished to the point of losing the character of the first recording, but rather the increased quality and production are used to highlight what made these songs great.

1. Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Listen on Spotify

Many thanks to the ever morphing voice of Frances Quinlan for everything she did to improve the quality of my 2018. The main thing she did for me was release and tour behind this album.

The hooks on this album are plentiful, creative, and gripping in all kinds of different ways. The melodies are all beautiful, the lyrics are all interesting and Quinlan’s delivery remains the star of the show throughout.

9 songs, 40 minutes. Not a single second worth skipping.

Here’s a Spotify playlist with all 10 of these albums on it.

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