My Favorite Albums of 2018

This is a simple overview of my favorite albums of 2018. Naturally I am only able to comment on those albums that I had the time to listen to and to find my way into. Many lists have albums from Mitski and others on there that I just didn’t totally get into. The list that follows is a mixture of albums that a lot of critics adored and others that just stood out to me. You probably won’t like all of these, but I’m pretty sure you can find something here that turns you on.

#13: Deafheaven, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. On ANTI-.

Deafheaven’s first record since 2015 sees the band moving into more melodic territory, sort of. Deafheaven is basically black metal mixed with a little Slowdive and a little Sigur Ros. The songs are often long–the opener “You Without End” runs 7 and a half minutes and the showstopper “Glint” runs over 10. The album is said to be based on Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair and you can certainly hear ordinary corrupt human love in the lyrics, or you can just sit back and bask in the sound. Basically, cool people like Deafheaven. Do you want to be cool? I thought so.

I’m by no means a black metal completist so the comparisons won’t be perfect but…

RIYL: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jesu, Pelican, Sigur Ros
Start With: You Without End, Glint, Honeycomb

#12: Metric, The Art of Doubt. On MMI/ Crystal Math Music.

I just love Metric and Emily Haines, so this is an easy one. Fantasies is a top 30 record of the millennium. The Art of Doubt doesn’t quite rise to that level, but it’s a kick-ass rocker through and through and “The Risk,” holy lord:

Was the risk I sent to you received?
All the words we say to be believed?
I’m already over the thrill of pursuit
Where can I take this risk I took with you?
Send this kiss to someone new?

Metric is historical high-level. I’m a Gemini sun with Mars in Leo in my 10th house. I am, basically speaking, not afraid of people. What you got? Yeah, color me impressed. However…there are three women I would be a bit daunted to meet. In order:

#1: Brit Marling, actress and creator of The OA.

#2: Emily Haines, lead singer of Metric.

#3: Kristin Stewart, actress in Personal Shopper.

RIYL: Chvrches, Broken Social Scene, Emily Haines, Lower Dens
Start With: The Risk, Dark Saturday

#11: Bad Moves, Tell No One. On Don Giovanni Records.

I wrote about Bad Moves extensively here: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/12/16/crushes-and-crushing-with-bad-moves-and-swearin/. Bad ass power pop with attitude, class, and sweetness. That’s quite a combination. And Emily Park is stunning. That’s my opinion, and I am correct.

RIYL: Dirty on Purpose, Daddy Issues, Swearin’
Start With: Crushed Out, Missing You

#10: Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer. On Bad Boy Records and Atlantic Records.

I really liked her last record, and her new one is a huge step forward. Janelle is a star, no question about it. This is a rollicking record with breadth and depth and takes multiple listens to plumb. Janelle is living in public with no apologies. The record is long and dense and encompass a range of moods. The best places to jump in are the fist-pumping tracks like “Django Jane,” which sees Monae spitting fire:

Yeah, yeah this is my palace, champagne in my chalice
I got is all covered like a wedding band
Wonderland, so my alias is Alice
We gon’ start a motherfuckin’ pussy riot
Or we gon’ have to put them on a pussy diet
Look at that, I guarantee I got ’em quiet
Look at that, I guarantee they all inspired

I can’t wait to see her live as soon as possible.

RIYL: Lykke Li, Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, Lady Gaga
Start With: Crazy Classic Life, Django Jane

#9: The Hold Steady, Confusion in the Marketplace/ The Stove and the Toaster b/w Star 18/ Eureka b/w Esther.

This one is a bit of a cheat as it is not actually an album. These are the three two-song releases from The Hold Steady in 2018. If you aren’t a hardcore fan you these might have slipped beneath your radar. That’s a shame because there are some classic Hold Steady songs and some killer Craig Finn lines in these songs.

“The Stove and the Toaster” details yet another bad deal gone down, a classic Finn theme.

Got some new information from the chef and the chauffeur
The put the stash in the stove they keep the cash in the toaster
Down in Las Cruces they don’t play with jokers
I hope I still know you when this is all over.

Needless to say, the narrator and crew get burned by the chef and the chauffeur in the end. Yeah, it’s sort of Finn-by-numbers, so, basically the kind of lines other songwriters would kill for.

My two favorites here are #2 “Esther,” and #1 “Star 18.” Esther is a great song about a week long romance. It remains totally remarkable how much detail and color Finn can get across in a 4 minute song.

The party ended suddenly, suddenly it’s over
That left me and Esther all along and getting older
All alone and getting older and smoking in the street
Now everything is Esther and it’s been that way all week

Esther follows the transcendent “Tangletown” from 2017’s We All Want the Same Things as a precisely executed x-ray of a complex adult relationship. I like it a lot.

Best of all is “Star 18,” a top 10 all time Hold Steady track. It’s an upbeat rocker that would fit on Stay Positive (still my favorite record by this great band.). A tongue-in-cheek commentary on the music scene and a come on song at the same time, Star 18 features lines that help make the case for Finn as the greatest living lyricist under 70.

Sorry I’m late, I got caught in the mosh
With this dude that said he used to play with Peter Tosh
But he never brought it up again once I said, man, I don’t believe you

And

Hold Steady at the Comfort Inn
Mick Jagger’s at the Mandarin
Once you get good, you can get it wherever you are.

The Hold Steady gets it wherever they are, believe me.

RIYL: Rock ‘n Roll
Start With: Star 18

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Crushes and Crushing with Bad Moves and Swearin’

She said what do you do
I said get specific
In the long run I grow old
Elliot Murphy

What am I doing? Get specific. OK, basically I’m on east coast of the United States seeing bands. I am connecting with my roots and connecting with my heart. I love live music; I love live music fans; I love the whole scene. So that’s what’s going on.

This piece is about two young bands making waves this year. First is Bad Moves, who I saw open for The Hold Steady last weekend at the Brooklyn Bowl. Their record is Tell No One (2018, Don Giovanni). Second is Swearin’ who a music geek introduced to me as a top five record of the year. Their record is Fall Into the Sun. (Swearin’ is not actually a new band, just new to me. Their 2018 release is the first in five years.) For some reason listening to both bands brings to mind Dirty on Purpose. Their best record is Hallelujah Sirens (2006, North Street Records, for some reason not on Spotify). What happens to a band like Dirty on Purpose? Does anyone remember them? I do–they are way underrated. Huge props go out to Dirty on Purpose and here’s “No Radio” for you (super low-rent video btw!):

Let’s play a game that we live in a world where a great record by a band like Bad Moves or Swearin’ would produce radio hits. I want to live in that world. So the first single from Fall Into the Sun, and perhaps the standout track on either album we are looking at, is Swearin’s “Big Change”. Check this out:

The best years of our lives
Were spent in some stranger’s basement
Medley made of empty cans and ex’s
And that radical romantic conversation
And how we are like mutants
Who found each other by chance through rock n roll music
Clenched fist, eyes wild
Scream over the records, you artfully complied
While I put my bad faith into practice
Sit at home on Saturday night
Ease into my false sense of superiority
No art degree, no conservatory
Just Katie and me
And whatever we are drinking
To diminish our diplomacy
If you can’t appreciate the art
Appreciate the air conditioning

That’s high-level awesome. “No art degree, no conservatory/ Just Katie and me”–“who’s better than us” is the refrain of DiLillo’s Underworld. If they can do it, why not us? Fuck ’em, and if you don’t that it, appreciate the air conditioning. That’s what attitude looks like kids, take notes.

So “Big Change” is my single from Fall Into the Sun. Any record worth it’s salt will have at least two singles; three is a bonus. And, we’ll do a “sneaky favorite.” I’m all about sneaky favorites, on all levels.

For Swearin’s second single I’ll go with “Grow into a Ghost.” It opens with a chugging guitar riff with an almost Krautrock drum line. The song is a perfect 3:10–in and out. Do you know anything about lost love? Swearin’ does–here’s verse 2:

I write you ceaselessly and abstracted
I hang our with old friends
And they unknowingly remind me
Of who I was before we met
You were somewhere out in the desert
You frame the natural light perfectly
Will you come back soon and
Let me love you completely

and the chorus: “I watch you/ I watch you grow into a ghost.”

I’ll save the sneaky favorite for later.

Bad Moves I gotta say rocked my world. First, the star of the band (and I know they are a collective, I get it, but my world is my world baby) is Katie Park.

Before the show Katie was at the merch table selling…magic eye! Magic eye! That she made by hand. And what did it say? The magic eye said “Bad Moves.” Obviously. 20 minutes later she and the band were crushing it. It’s only a snippet, but check this out:

The single here is pretty easy. It’s “Crushed Out.” The band released “Spirit FM” as the single, which is also excellent. But for me, “Crushed Out” is the single. Maybe “Spirit FM” is more immediately catchy? Possible. So maybe it is the single. But “Crushed Out” has more lasting power in my opinion. I’ll bow to the band and take “Spirit FM” as single two. “Crushed Out” is about exactly what it sounds like. It has a basically perfect power pop structure with a killer hook, a classic bridge, and a theme at once super obvious and super deep–the power of a crush.

It was a strange infatuation
I couldn’t place it at the time
But now it seems as if my mind
Was all stopped up with you
I had no sense of aspiration
I didn’t know, I guess it’s fine
But now it seems so obvious
Did it seem so obvious?
Through all my fits of desperation
Sharing looks and passing notes
What did you make of what I wrote?
What could I ask of you?
The weeks of strained communication
Could you read between the lines
Or was it just so obvious?
It was a strange infatuation
I didn’t have the words to say yet, to be fair
Crushing out that way
It would be years before I’d face it
But it was just so obvious

Baby, if you are crush-prone that power never goes away. Bad Moves knows this–it’s kind of what the record is about. Crushing out that way can be pretty obvious–do you think I’m, crushing out on Katie at all? Nah, this is just a piece of music appreciation.

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