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
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.