Favorite Albums of 2018

Am I the only album-list nerd that gets a bit of anxiety from music blogs racing to publish their year-end lists as early as possible? I mean aren’t new albums still getting released in December? How is there time to digest all the fourth quarter releases if the lists are already getting prepared in November? And I feel like it’s getting earlier and earlier every year which leaves me scrambling to listen to the seemingly endless amount of great new music that comes into my periphery, in addition to processing all the new albums I’ve been enjoying throughout the year. I can’t tell if it’s the rebel or the procrastinator in me that wants to push against this trend and wait for the dust to settle a bit before making my lists. (In 2015, I ended up not finishing my favorite album write-up until the following March! Then I ended up scrapping my 2016 write-up once I realized 2017 was already nearing its end…yikes!). This year I decided to find some middle ground and make it easy on myself by only focusing on 15 amazing records that I’ve been actually able pick up on LP, spin and properly absorb, followed by a list of other recommended 2018 albums that I haven’t had the pleasure of picking up (yet). Hoping you find something new to check out!


Top 15 of 2018

15. Anthony Shadduck – Quartet & Double Quartet (Big Ego)

ECM-Style, Free Jazz

Not even gonna try writing about this one when there’s some amazing liner notes by Nels Cline:

Listen: https://jazzfreedom.bandcamp.com/album/anthony-shadduck-quartet-double-quartet


14. Young Jesus – The Whole Thing is Just There (Saddle Creek)

The Whole Thing is Just There is another beautiful and life-affirming release from Young Jesus, the second with the current L.A. iteration of the band. Their inter-band chemistry seems stronger than ever, with telepathic improvisations, symbiotic catharses, and a mutual love for each other that is easily felt from a listener’s perspective. The lyrics deal with self-exploration and one’s relationship with the world around them, finding solace in spirituality, existentialism, literature, and the ethos of free jazz. Stylistically the music seems rooted in late-90’s indie rock and emo, with seamless but adventurous detours into post-rock, noisy post-hardcore, and free improvisation. Excited to see where these guys go next.

Listen: https://youtu.be/Yj4s8Bb-sOs


13. Mount Eerie – Now Only (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

Singer/Songwriter, Loss, Storytelling

While 2017’s A Crow Looked At Me was a raw document of mourning recorded in the immediate wake his wife’s tragic death, Phil uses Now Only as a broader reflection on his life befor, during, and after his time with Geneviève. Thus, instead of focusing exclusively on the heartbreaking emotions of loss, the vivid storytelling also creates a heartwarming sense of beauty in knowing that a love such as theirs existed in the first place.

Listen: https://pwelverumandsun.bandcamp.com/album/now-only


12. The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer (Thrill Jockey)

Dark Ambient, Industrial, Experimental, Heavy, Noisy, Nihilistic

Listen: https://thebody.bandcamp.com/album/i-have-fought-against-it-but-i-can-t-any-longer


11. Jon Hopkins – Singularity (Domino)

Microhouse, Ambient House

Dynamic and uplifting house music characterized by filtered drums and enveloping synth textures. With its driving arpeggiations, danceable four-on-the-floor grooves, suspenseful build-ups, and soothing ambient tracks, Singularity is extremely well-paced, and it’s most beautiful moments full of sublime wonder.

Listen: https://jonhopkins.bandcamp.com/album/singularity


10. Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids – An Angel Fell (Strut)


Dub Jazz, Groovy, Spiritual, Afrobeat

An Angel Fell is a call to action for protecting and healing our planet, using folklore, group vocals, uplifting themes, deep grooves, and expressive improvisations to deliver the message. While not as wild and loose as the dense free jazz the Pyramids made back in the 70s, this record is an organic and vibrant fusion of spiritual jazz, dub, and Afrobeat that will give fans of musical geniuses such as Sun Ra, King Tubby, Fela Kuti, and Pharoah Sanders plenty to vibe to.

Listen: https://idrisackamoorandthepyramids.bandcamp.com/album/an-angel-fell


9. Tim Hecker – Konoyo (Kranky)

Progressive Electronic, Electro-Acoustic Experimentation, Drone

Listen: https://timhecker.bandcamp.com/album/konoyo


8. Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans)

Acoustic-shredder/singer-songwriter ventures out of the jazz-inflected folk-rock territory explored by his previous albums to create something that feels fully himself. Deafman Glance is full of angular left turns, complex structures, airy flutes, jazz detours, and psychedelic atmospheres. A balance of great songwriting, jazz musicianship, and experimental/art-rock tendencies. Recommended to fans of Tortoise’s Standards, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and King Crimson’s Red. (Click for full review)

Listen: https://ryleywalker.bandcamp.com/album/deafman-glance


7. Mary Halvorson – Code Girl (Firehouse 12)

Progressive Jazz, Avant-Rock

Halvorson has been developing her own idiosyncratic and multi-dimensional language on guitar for awhile now (see her 2015 solo album Meltframe for proof). Here this language is augmented by a dramatic, powerful quintet featuring the symbiotic rhythm section of her trio Thumbscrew, as well as Ambrose Akinmusire’s expressive trumpet playing and Amirtha Kidambi‘s operatic singing of cryptic and cerebral lyrics penned by Halvorson. Together they use complex five-part counterpoint to weave intricate webs of melody, rhythm, and texture through progressive and dynamic structures.

Side note: It’s interesting how the number 5 is so prominent in all the album images (pentagons, fingers, toes, stars, etc)

Listen: https://maryhalvorson.bandcamp.com


6. Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore – Ghost Forests (Three Lobed Recordings)

An ethereal and somewhat haunting ambient-folk collaboration between guitarist/singer Meg Baird (Espers, Heron Oblivion), and harpist Mary Lattimore, who’s recorded with Fursaxa, Steve Gunn, and others in addition to her hypnotic solo work. Highly recommended for fans of Natural Snow Buildings, Laraaji, and 60’s British folk music. (Click for Full Review)

Listen: https://threelobed.bandcamp.com/album/ghost-forests


5. Black Spirituals – Black Access Black Axes (Sige)

Free Improvisation, Spiritual Noise, Resonance

Listen: https://sigerecords.bandcamp.com/album/black-access-black-axes


4. Yonatan Gat – Universalists (Joyful Noise)

The new album from guitarist Yonatan Gat manages to find cohesiveness in its sprawling diversity. Stylistically it combines the rawness of garage rock, the thematic improvisation of Free jazz, and the experimental editing of musique concréte with psychedelic production, Arabic and Klezmer scales and surfy tremelo guitars. (Click for Full Review)

Listen: https://yonatangat.bandcamp.com/album/universalists


3. Julia Holter – Aviary (Domino)

Surrealistic Progressive Pop, Experimental, Chamber Pop, Ambient Pop
For fans of: Robert Wyatt, Talk Talk, David Sylvian

Listen: https://juliaholter.bandcamp.com/album/aviary


2. lojii – lofeye (Youngbloods)

“I don’t need to get reviewed/ for shit that no critics do”
“You can call it what you want, soul jazz punk rhythm blues funk, you can call it what you want, it’s a call I probably won’t pick up.”
“You can’t put a harness on all expression/ Avant Garde/ whatever you want to call it/ the style so inventive…”

Categorization and comparison are the least of lojii’s worries, instead prioritizing creative expression and finding spiritual truth and power in this dimly lit dystopia. He delivers his prophetic words with a focused, unwavering determination, while the beats are gritty and nocturnal with their open percussion, eerie synths, and negative space. Don’t miss out on this one.

Listen: https://uuum.bandcamp.com/album/lofeye


1. Eric Chenaux – Slowly Paradise (Constellation)

“Love will be done just as it has been. I’ll go away away with the leaves on every tree, when I awake to the other world in me. There’s my love and there are my leaves”

Eric Chenaux’s gentle falsetto is the most constant, tangible element on this album characterized by a permanent state of flux. The guitars are warbly and unsteady with their fluctuating tones, volume, and pitch, sometimes sounding like a warped Fahey LP that sat in the sun too long. Even the way they were recorded accentuates this, as the album credits sound artist Marla Hlady for “spinning microphones”. Yet, despite their experimental nature, these guitars never sound abrasive and, together with some mellow Wurlitzer, create a soft, pillowy environment for Chenaux’s romantic crooning about the nature of love, the moon, and warm nights.  Perhaps this push and pull between temporality and constancy is symbolic of the idea that love is the only reliable thing in a world full of change, or perhaps it means quite the opposite, that love itself is just as ephemeral and impermanent as everything else. Either way, this music is blooming with the beauty and warmth of the kind of love that wells up from the deepest parts of ourselves; embrace it while you can, but if you try to grasp it too tightly it might slip away. 

Listen: https://ericchenaux.bandcamp.com/album/slowly-paradise


Other recommended 2018 albums:

(Click album titles for links to music on bandcamp/youtube)

Jazz:
Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings (Improvised Beat-making, Free Jazz, Groovy)
Szun Waves – New Hymn to Freedom (Ambient Jazz, Free Improvisation, Synth-Drums-Sax Trio)
Blacks’ Myths – Blacks’ Myths (Hypnotic Bass&Drum Improvisations, Experimental)
Andrew Cyrille, Wadada Leo Smith, & Bill Frisell – Lebroba (ECM-Style, Free Jazz)
Bill Frisell – Music Is (Solo guitar, Looping, Meditative, Innovative)
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile (Afro-Jazz, Heavy Dance Grooves)
Kamasi Washington – Heaven & Earth (Spiritual Jazz, Soul Jazz, Big-Band, Crossover)

Rock:
Oh Sees – Smote Reverser (Heavy Psych, Prog)
Kikagaku Moyo – Masana Temples (Japanese Psych, Kosmische, Raga Rock)
Jupiter & Okwess – Kin Sonic (Psychedelic Afro-Rock from the Congo)
Media Jeweler – 1-800-Succeed (Post-Punk, Math Rock, Anxious)
Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch (Experimental, Art Rock, Industrial)
The Re-Stoned – Stories of the Astral Lizard (Russian Cosmic Psych, Instrumental, Tribal, Meditative)
Jiboa – OOOO (Experimental, Portuguese Psych, Kosmische, Improvisation)
Beak> – >>> (Space Rock, Kosmische

Hip-Hop:
Denzel Currie – Ta1300 (Southern, Hardcore, Trap)
Saba – Care for Me (Conscious, Mellow, Pop-Rap)
Tierra Whack – Whack World (Eccentric and Eclectic Pop Rap, Alternative R&B)
Death Grips – Year of the Snitch (Experimental, Industrial, Punk Rap)
Noname – Room 25 (Conscious, Jazz-Rap, Groovy)
Milo – Budding Ornithologists Are Weary of Tired Analogies (Abstract, Jazz Rap, Conscious)
Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 1&2 (Conscious, Jazz Rap)
Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs

Folk:
Daniel Bachman – The Morning Star (American Primitive Guitar, Avant-Folk)
Jerusalem in My Heart – Daqa-iq Tudaiq (Orchestral Arabic Folk, Electro-Acoustic, Experimental)
Prana Crafter – Enter the Stream (Psych Folk, Peaceful Drone, Singer-Songwriter)
Sarah Louise – Deeper Woods (Appalachian folk, Singer-Songwriter)

Singer-Songwriter:
Jakob Battick – To Be Born Again & Again (Cosmic Americana)
Toby Driver – They Are the Shield (Art Rock, Progressive, Chamber Rock)
New Balance – The Moon is Down (Folk-Rock, Chamber Folk)

Heavy (Metal/Punk):
Keiji Haino & Sumac – アメリカドル紙幣よ そのまま横を向いたままでいてくれ 正面からは見られたもんじゃないから (American Dollar Bill – Keep Looking Sideways, You’re Too Hideous to Look at Face On) (Noise Rock, Sludge, Free Improvisation)
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want (Noise Rock, Industrial, Nihilistic, Crushing, Experimental, DARK)
Sumac – Love in Shadow (Avant-Sludge Metal, Post-Metal)
Crack Cloud – Crack Cloud (Art-Punk, No Wave)

Experimental:
Tangents – New Bodies (Post-Minimalism, Electro-Acoustic Improvisation)
The Necks – Body (Free Improvisation, Driving, Kosmische, Experimental Rock)
Anna Von Hausswolff – Dead Magic (Neoclassical Darkwave, Scandinavian, Droney, Gothic)
Efrim Manuel Menuck – Pissing Stars (Drone, Drum Machines, Dystopic, Singer/Songwriter)

Pop:
U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited (Art-Pop, Lush, Groovy)
MGMT – Little Dark Age (Psych Pop, Electro-Pop)
Kali Uchis – Isolation (Groovy, Sunny, Art Pop)
Low – Double Negative (Glitch Pop, Art Pop)
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Panic Blooms (Depressive Psych-Pop, Synth Pop)
The Vryll Society – Course of the Satellite (Art Pop)
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage (Eclectic Psych-Pop, Progressive Pop)

Electronic:
Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love (Experimental, Eclectic, Dark)
Cavern of Anti-Matter – Hormonal Lemonade (Analogue Electronic, Kosmische)
Oneohtrix Point Never – Age of (Progressive Electronic)

Soul/Groovy:
Serpentwithfeet – soil (avant-r&b, intimate, gospel, dark)
Kadjha Bonet – Childqueen (Lushly Orchestrated Psychedelic Soul)
Kamaal Williams – The Return (Jazz-Funk, Brokenbeat)

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