It's that time of year again, to get sick of the year's music and just listen to the Pixies through January. LOL jk. I figured out that I played music from about 225 new albums in 2018 so these 10 are ones that I completely adore. Happy New Year!
10.) Twin Shadow - Caer
A retro-fascination with the sounds of the radio from three decades ago combined with longing is a powerful elixir. George Lewis Jr. borrows sounds from pop music’s past and repackages them into stellar tunes. Surely there’s a parallel universe where Twin Shadow is dominating top-40 radio, and Caer is a welcome glimpse into that place.
9.) Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo
The Huston trio borrows from underground psychedelia of the ‘60’s, funk, and soul, and conjures up specific geographies, this time Spain and the Middle East, to create vibes from a fictitious land that are as irresistible as they are groovy. Like a record store-find for the streaming era you’ll feel like you’ve happened upon something one-of-a-kind, and too important to be forgotten.
8.) Christine and the Queens - Chris
Héloïse Letissier is a worldwide sensation, except for you-know-where, but Americans need to get real hip to this real fast. As someone who spends more time with headphones in solitude than in clubs I’ve got to quote Tom Morello from a Vice News segment with regards to another song, but he said as long as there are clubs and as long as there is romance, there will be music like this. Thank goodness for romance, dance, Tom Morello, and Christine and the Queens.
7.) Wild Nothing - Indigo
There’s a gorgeous shimmer present on this album from the very first moments, one that instills a helpless euphoria in me when I put it on. It takes parts of new wave and the jangle pop of college-radio era indie and mixes them into one of the most heartfelt, pleasant listening experiences of the year. The songs get to where they’re going quickly, leaving a record full of the that good parts of songs and repeats them relentlessly.
6. Jon Hopkins - Singularity
Lots of music is transcendent, it’s kind of its thing, but much like the way that Hopkins acknowledges the cliché of his desert pilgrimages and freezing baths, it’s just a descriptor that works here. Gradual builds of tension with minimal (though glorious) bursts of release burrow through one’s ears and strait into the brainstem, and then all throughout the nervous system. It respects empty space and silence, allowing one’s surroundings, one’s own breath, one’s wandering thoughts, to exist peacefully alongside its shifting patterns.
5.) Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
I’ve noticed that the running theme of albums on my favorites list is that I apparently demanded all my music to be pretty this year, and my one metal pick is no exception. It’s not new for metal music to be pretty, and indeed some of the prettiest and most morose music comes from the more contemplative metal bands. Deafheaven is one of those bands that seems to forsake both indie kids and metalheads but I’ve always admired that intersection they reside in and can’t help my amusement at the way this sort of thing can angry up so much blood. It’s actually better suited for those who like big sweeping instrumental post-rock than death metal, but those who are open-minded with their listening are likely to enjoy the multi-part epics here.
4.) Neko Case - Hell-On
The singer/songwriter, and now producer has long established herself as one of the most important creators of her generation. On this album she’s applied her uncanny penchant for vivid storytelling and misfit protagonists to the album’s sound, stretching the boundaries explored in her prior work while maintaining what is perhaps her greatest strength as a musician, her unparalleled voice.
3.) Beach House - 7
Of all the dream pop bands, I think Beach House puts me into the most blissful slumber. 7 maximizes their sparse sound, shifting from soft whispers to a controlled turbulence that approaches the horizon of chaos, but ventures just short of it. The rhythms and textures are alluring and hypnotic: in a word they are dreamy.
2.) Jean Grae & Quelle Chris - Everything's Fine
The most bonkers hip-hop album of the year, this is a pummeling treatise on how things are not fine. Both MCs are witty and masterful with their wordplay, though Grae’s precision offers a nice contrast to Chris’ lackadaisical delivery. They’re both comedians as well, and the playfulness with which they approach these songs is novel and fun.
1.) Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer
Monáe sheds her android persona to deliver her most personal album yet, but it’s still a sci-fi epic full of allegory and metaphors about how one can be persecuted simply for being oneself. It’s sexy and full of pop hooks. It’s also unapologetically patriotic while subverting the status quo and insisting that the American dream belongs to all.
Left Of The Dial can be heard Friday nights from 9-11 and Saturdays from noon-2pm on KRCU.
Happy New Year, Pete!