It goes without saying that 2018 was a terrible time to be me. Too much of the year was spent grieving, and escaping into movies and music were about all I had (other than my cats, of course). To be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time seeking out new music. In terrible times I usually sink back into that which I already know. In this case, it was a lot of old-school rap, 80's favorites, and whatever I happen to catch in music soundtracks or internet radio.
So while I'm sure there's plenty of new stuff that escaped my notice in 2018, here's the music I found which I liked quite a lot.
#1 Indigo by Wild Nothing
You'd think that I'd become accustomed to stumbling across a band that's been around for years that I never knew existed. There I was watching To All The Boys I've Loved Before (it's on Netflix and you should definitely check it out) when I hear a beautiful track playing. A little Google research reveals it's Chinatown by Wild Nothing from their 2010 debut album. That day was August 18th... the same day that Wild Nothing released their latest album, Indigo! It took me all of five minutes to completely obsess over Jack Tatum and everything he's ever done. Thoughtful lyrics, beautiful vocals, and a mellow sound all come together to wrap you up like a warm blanket. I've been listening to the album many, many times over the last several months.
#2 Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves
This album took me completely by surprise when I had Amazon Music Unlimited Radio playing and Oh What A World came oozing through the speakers. At first I didn't know what to make of it. Is it pop? Is it country? Is it folk? What in the heck am I listening to? Who is singing this magical mashup? Turns out it was Kacey Musgraves, and her album Golden Hour was a new kind of wonderful landing in the middle of my Springtime. I am not a country music fan AT ALL, but there's something incredible about what she's doing here that can't be denied. Achingly beautiful music at every turn, I'm head over heels in love with Kacey Musgraves.
#3 Science Fiction by Tom Bailey
There has been a trio of bands that have become the bedrock of my love of 80's music. Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and Thompson Twins. The latter being the only band to stop making music. Until Tom Bailey decided to ride a nostalgia wave and tour with old Twins' hits. After that was a success, he came out with a new album that feels very much like what I had hoped for. A brilliant 80's throwback with a bit of a contemporary edge.
#4 Great Big Blue by Geowulf
Like everybody else, I was swept away by the lovely dreamy pop stylings of Saltwater (aka that Corona commercial song). It feels like it's been around forever, but was only released in 2016. Two years later, the song shows up on Great Big Blue along with other magical tracks. Perfect music for a sleepy Sunday, there's a lot to love on an album that sounds like Summer (even if some of the tracks were released well before 2018).
#5 A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975
While this album was a step down from the previous two (very nearly making it to my "Disappointments" section) there was enough going on that I ended up listening to it quite a lot. Not surprising considering that The 1975 is one of my favorite bands.
#6 EP by Silhouettes
So there I was watching an ad for the excellent Shoshannah Stern dramedy This Close which has this awesome track playing in the background. I spent forever trying to track down who sang it and where it comes from. Eventually I fell down a YouTube comment rabbit-hole and found out it was called A Home To Come To by a band called Silhouettes. Fine. Except the only band called Silhouettes that showed up anywhere was the Yip Yip Yip Yip Sha Na Na Na Get a Job band from the 50's. Months later I gave it another shot and found that the (new) Silhouettes released an EP on iTunes that was fantastic. I bought it immediately and, for the longest time, that's the only place you can find it. Now it's on Spotify and Amazon Music as well. Hopefully you have one of those, because they have nothing on YouTube. All I can get for you is the This Close ad that started it all...
P.S. This Close was finally released to the iTunes Store if you're not a Sundance Now subscriber.
#7 Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe
I don't know how to say this without offending a great many people... but Dirty Computer sounds more "Prince" to me than some of Prince's later albums where he found religion and turned his back on the nasty side of pop that he defined. Never one to leave a good idea laying on the ground, Monáe picked up that baton and took it in a fresh direction that had me singing "You fucked the world up now, we'll fuck it all back down! Let's get. Let's get. SCREWED!" while the song is blasting on my stereo. Her latest effort is inventive, imaginative, and all Janelle Monáe. What more could you want?
#8 Black Panther (Soundtrack) by Kendrick Lamar & Various
My favorite movie of 2018 got a killer soundtrack to go with it. Orchestrated by Kendrick Lamar (whose Damn made my list last year), the standout track would have to be All The Stars (with SZA) which so flawlessly closed Black Panther over the end-credits. Lush, haunting, and beautifully realized by not only the best video of 2018 but one of the best videos of all time. The rest of the tracks are suitably catchy (even though not all of them were in the movie). Notably Pray for Me (with The Weeknd).
#9 Bloom by Troye Sivan
I have never been a big fan of Sivan's stuff until I heard My My My! burning up the airwaves and realized he was the one singing it. The album that spawned it ended up being played far more than I thought it would throughout the Fall (especially Dance To This, his magical duet with Arianna Grande). Will be interesting to see where he goes next.
#10 FM! by Vince Staples
This was my go-to album as I worked through the holidays. Raw lyrics married to dirty beats that confront all the shitty frustration that life rains down day after day. People don't understand how somebody like me can find solace in rap... especially rap like this... and I'm hard-pressed to explain it myself. All I know is that every last track on FM! was like mana from heaven at a time I needed it most. Brutally brief in length, you can burn through the entire album in 20 minutes and come out the other side feeling like you've run a gauntlet. Only the best rappers can manage something like that.
#11 Walk Between Worlds by Simple Minds
I'm just going to be brutally honest here... Jim Kerr sounds like he's sleepwalking his way through this album. Maybe it's the 40 years he's been fronting the band. Maybe it's the sound he was going for. I don't know. But the bright, fresh vocals that pounded through such seminal Simple Minds tracks like Don't You (Forget About Me) and Alive and Kicking have left the building. Sure there's an occasional glimpse of what was, but Walk Between Worlds is a totally different animal. I still like it though.
#12 Expectations by Hayley Kiyoko
Kiyoko's debut is pretty spectacular. Poppy goodness with a slight edge to it and terrific vocals. On top of all that, she's got something to say. Built around LGBT themes, her music and videos serve as the ultimate form of self-expression, and that's always a good thing.
Scorpion by Drake
The latest Drake album dropped the day my mom died and I was quick to give it a listen. All these months later, I still don't know what to make of it. 25 tracks. There's rap. There's R&B. There's even a semblance of pop. If I'm being honest, it's a bit of a mess. And yet... it's Drake, so there's gems to be found in them thar hills.
SINGLES TO LOVE...
All the Ways by Meghan Trainor
Meghan's latest album TREAT MYSELF was due this year, but got pushed into next year because she wanted to add more tracks. But Amazon Music and iTunes has a partial album up, leaving us to live with tracks 1, 2, 3, 12, and 13. It's that 13th track, All The Ways which got stuck in my head for months thanks to those dang Target commercials. I do love it though (as I do the other tracks)...
My guess is I'll be seeing TREAT MYSELF on next year's BEST list.
Party For One by Carly Rae Jepsen
As a mega-huge fan of her last album (EMOTION) I have been waiting on pins and needles for her new album. That didn't happen in 2018, but we did get a taste of what's to come.
My guess is I'll be seeing Carly Rae on next year's BEST list.
Without Me by Halsey
Like Robyn, I have tried to get into Halsey but just can't seem to grab hold. Then she unleashes Without Me, easily one of my favorite tracks of 2018, and suddenly wonder where she's been all my life.
VIDEOS TO WATCH...
The best video of the year, hands-down, is All The Stars (see above). But a close second would have to be The Carters (aka Beyoncé and Jay-Z) RENTING OUT THE LOUVRE to shoot a video for Apeshit.
I JUST DON'T KNOW...
Pray for the Wicked by Panic! At the Disco
While the album isn't necessarily bad (some of the tracks I like quite a lot) I can't seem to take Brendon Urie's vocals in anything more than small doses. And then there's tracks like Dancing's Not a Crime where his screeching makes me want to jump in front of a bus. This is a band I should like, but can't seem to buy into because it feels like my ears are bleeding if I listen to more than two songs.
Jake Shears by Jake Shears
After getting completely hooked on Scissor Sisters just after they broke up, I was happy when I found out that Shears had more music on the way as a solo act. The resulting album is kinda Scissor Sisters but mostly not. And I honestly don't know what to make of it. I like a couple tracks, but was left mostly disappointed.
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Weird to think that, while I’ve heard of every single one of the artists on your list, I’ve only listened to three of them this year and we only share a singular item on our music lists. Strange, indeed. And I can’t believe I missed Wild Nothings’ new album.
The album is so good, but I have to admit… the Kacey Musgraves album is very close to my top spot. If you had told me a COUNTRY album would be anywhere near my top twelve even a year ago, let alone #2, I probably would have laughed at you. But here we are. That’s one magical experience.
I was happy to see we share 3 albums on our best of music lists this year: Wild Nothing, Janelle Monáe and Tom Bailey. I really liked both the movie and soundtrack from Black Panther and completely forgot about it when I was putting my list together. Going to have to replay that soundtrack here soon.
And your are spot on about Janelle Monáe album sounding more Prince than Prince’s later albums.
That Panic! at the Disco song that is on the radio now (High Hopes) makes me want to slide an ice pick into my eardrums. Sounds like some bad Fall Out Boy shite.
It’s a shame Scissor Sisters went off the rails. Night Work is a classic. I briefly playlisted one of Jake’s new solo tunes but it didn’t take.
The Scissor Sisters had an amazing run. I still hope for a reunion one day!