Sunday, December 16, 2018

My Top 30 Albums Of 2018

You might notice that I've expanded the list this year. Last year I upped my top tracks list to 30, a practice I continued this year. So why not up the albums list too? After all, there were a lot of great records released in 2018.

So here goes, in no particular order...

Kenixfan's Top 30 Albums of 2018

1. Could It Be Different? by The Spook School

The Spook School dropped Could It Be Different? on Slumberland Records early in 2018. Invigorating indie-anthems filled this record, as I explained here, and one would be hard-pressed to name another album as inspiring as this one this year.

2. What a Time To Be Alive by Superchunk

As soon as it dropped, What A Time To Be Alive seemed like one of the best records the Merge Records band had ever released. Timely and vital, the music here was, as I raved here, full of energy and spark. I loved this band before this record and I love them a little bit more now.

3. I Don't Run by Hinds

Hinds released their second album this year, and, sure, I Don't Run had compositions that indicated that members of the band had grown up a tiny bit. Still, despite that, the tunes here were just as much fun as anything this band had released before. I reviewed the album here, and I'm still playing many of the tracks from the record every week even now at the end of the year

4. Resistance Is Futile by Manic Street Preachers

Leave it to the Manics to surprise yet again. After a string of releases where the band sounded more revitalized and bristle-y than ever, the Welsh trio went and made something that's nearly a pop album. Resistance Is Futile is a superb record, as I raved back here back in April, but it's also an album full of superbly-realized near-anthems that felt familiar to long-time fans of this band, and which seemed boldly accessible too.

5. Little Acts of Destruction by Red Hare

Red Hare (ex-Swiz, Dag Nasty) dropped a punk-bomb in 2018. The Dischord release Little Acts of Destruction is one I hyped up here earlier this year, and it's the kind of record that felt like one of the best, recent releases from a D.C. scene that continues to offer up vital examples of the original harDCore spark.

6. Hope Downs by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Hope Downs, the debut full-length from Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever was easily one of the most-listenable releases of 2018. As I said in my review of the album, the long-player was full of effortless blends of The Go-Betweens and C86 bands, with each cut seeming like a big (indie) hit single.

7. Floating Features by La Luz

Floating Features found La Luz expanding their normal sound, and, as I said in my review, the band still managed to make music that felt at once similar to their earlier releases, and a bit adventurous.

8. Constant Image by Flasher

The debut full-length from D.C. band Flasher, Constant Image, reviewed by me here, was a set of bright, bold New Wave numbers. If the D.C. band didn't seem to make music that fit in neatly with the legacy of this city, the tunes bore more than a hint of stuff from Priests, and the other bands the members of Flasher first played in.

9. Babelsberg by Gruff Rhys

The concise and elegant Babelsberg was, as I said in my review, a fantastic record, and one that's likely the best solo release from the Super Furry Animals singer so far.

10. Future Me Hates Me by The Beths

The latest album from New Zealand's The Beths, Future Me Hates Me is full of the sort of indie-pop that harks back to the glory days of bands like Belly, and That Dog, among others. As I wrote in my review, The Beths made one of the most enjoyable releases of 2018.

11. Everything Is Love by The Carters

I didn't review it but I sure played it. A lot. Back in summer-time, this seemed like a masterpiece. And if the pairing of husband-and-wife Jay-Z and Beyonce as The Carters didn't exactly set the world on fire, at least speakers were banging, with tunes like "Black Effect" and "Nice" the anthems of summer as far as I was concerned.

12. Across The Meridian by Pram

The return of Pram should have received a lot more fanfare. If Across The Meridian re-affirmed anything, it was this band's ability to be more than just one of those bands who get compared to Stereolab. As I stressed in my review, Across The Meridian saw Pram mix elements of post-rock, free jazz, and soundtrack music all together in the service of their otherworldly tune-age.

13. Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino by Arctic Monkeys

I didn't review Arctic Monkeys' new record when it came out but I liked it a lot. Despite hints on earlier records of this new direction for the Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino was still a bit of a stylistic surprise. An enveloping record, full of soul and New Wave textures whipped up together, each cut here was nearly hypnotic.

14. Digital Garbage by Mudhoney

More than grunge, the music on the superb new record from Mudhoney, Digital Garbage, was sharp and energetic, the sort of post-punk that did more than just crank up the volume. I loved the record, and I think it's fair to say it might be one of the band's best releases ever.

15. The Lost Record by Escape-ism

Ian Svenonious offered up a new Escape-ism LP on Merge Records in 2018, and The Lost Record was an excellent concept record from the only artist who could possibly have made that hoary device work again. In fact, the whole record also works as a parody of the reverence feted upon classic rock albums. Meta, man, and, remarkably, The Lost Record managed to be both fun and incendiary.

16. Snow Bound by The Chills

The new album from The Chills, Snow Bound, on Fire Records, was a rollicking record. As I said when I reviewed the album, there was a new vigor here that was positively infectious, a point Martin Phillipps seemed to acknowledge when I interviewed him last Fall.

17. Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love by St. Lenox

St. Lenox offered up another one-of-a-kind album in Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love, and the compositions here have that familiar wordplay his earlier records had, even if the music offered up a few new touches.

18. Possible Dust Clouds by Kristin Hersh

The new Kristin Hersh album, Possible Dust Clouds, on Fire Records, found Kristin revealing a sonic debt owed to Led Zeppelin, with the tunes benefiting from slight blues-based hooks. Still, it was a Kristin Hersh record, and the former Throwing Muses leader did not disappoint, as my rave review indicated.

19. Proto Retro by Dot Dash

Proto Retro, the new album from D.C.'s Dot Dash, was, as I raved here, a near-masterpiece of the power-pop form. Terry Banks' compositions are tight and economical masterclasses in how to write this sort of thing, and with Hunter Bennett and Danny Ingram beside him, the band is punching with the sort of focus that recalls the glory days of Tommy Keene and his band.

20. There's A Riot Going On By Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo offered up one of their most mellow, and yet best, records in 2018. There's A Riot Going On was nearly elegiac in spots, but it was also a superb release, as my review explained. For fans of this band, it felt like further confirmation of their continuing greatness.

21. Modern Meta Physic by Peel Dream Magazine

The debut album from Peel Dream Magazine, Modern Meta Physic, was one of the best releases on Slumberland Records in 2018 and that was saying something. A nice riff on Stereolab, the music here also owed some debts to Unrest and other indie bands of the Nineties. Still, the music here was affecting, even if reviewers like me were left fumbling for comparison points when writing about this release.

22. Parallel Universe Blues by Papercuts

The new release from Papercuts, Parallel Universe Blues, was yet another essential record from Slumberland Records in 2018, and one which was full of music that mixed the best elements of shoegaze with a bunch of really strong melodies. When I reviewed the album, I hesitated to call it shoegaze because it's so much more. If the term dream-pop was ever to be used, it would be here, because these are tunes from a pop-music lover's dream.

23. Code Word by The Moles

The Moles offered up an unruly record in Code Word this year. Still, as I said when I reviewed Code Word, it was a superb release, full of elegant chamber pop and raging post-punk, amid an assured White Album-like presentation.

24. Space Gun by Guided By Voices

Space Gun, reviewed by me here, was an absolutely fantastic record. Further proof that Robert Pollard is leading Guided By Voices through a new heyday of power-pop greatness, the LP was a blast.

25. Don't Look by Young Romance

The second album from Young Romance, Don't Look, was, as I explained in my review,an expansion of the band's expert blend of shoegaze and C86 styles. Claire and Paolo served up an excellent record here, one which is even better than their earlier releases.

26. Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand

The latest record from Franz Ferdinand was, like the latest from Arctic Monkeys, the band's first in 5 years and a stylistic leap. If the electro-pop on Always Ascending sounded a bit like earlier FF releases, it also revealed a new iteration of the band's sound, one mixed with a larger dollop of Talking Heads-style white boy funk and sleek New Wave.

27. Birds Of America by Lake Ruth

Lake Ruth served up their best release to date with 2018's Birds of America. And while reviewers like me still reached for Stereolab and Pram as comparison points, the music being made here by Allison Brice, Hewson Chen, and Matt Schulz was uniquely elegant chamber pop. A lovely and captivating record, Birds of America deserved all the praise it earned by reviewers.

28. MITH by Lonnie Holley

MITH is more than just a pop record, or a jazz record. It is, as I stressed in my review, a fantastic album that blends genres while leaping over them. Lonnie Holley, an artist in every sense of the word, crafted something here that veered from protest rock ("I Woke Up In A Fucked Up America"), to epic, free jazz ("I Snuck Off The Slave Ship"). That Holley can get away with those kinds of stylistic strides spoke volumes to his talent and command of the material at hand. One of the very few releases on this list that could possibly change the very way you think, MITH by Lonnie Holley is high art.

29. Rest In Peace by Boys

The debut full-length from Boys, Rest In Peace, was another in a string of excellent releases from the PNKSLM label. It was also, as my review indicated, full of otherworldly pop of the sort that defied easy categorization but which was remarkably easy to enjoy.

30. What You've Heard Isn't Real by Porcupine

The latest record from Porcupine was a real pleasant surprise. Full of alt-rock that sounded punchy and forceful like stuff from Foo Fighters, the Midwest trio's power was undoubtedly amplified by the presence of Husker Du bassist Greg Norton in the band. I reviewed What You've Heard Isn't Real earlier this year here, and I was delighted to be able to further explore the creation of the band's music when I interviewed Greg Norton later in the Fall.

[Photo: Flasher by Jen Dessinger]