2018 Real Music Review
Music in 2018 brought creativity, emotional intelligence, openness, and experimental advances. This gave way to a fantastic 2018 listen. Here are the 10 that personally found their way into my ears, head, and heart.
1. Snail Mail — Lush
Lush was Lindsey Jordan’s debut, and it’s impressive the level of emotion and musical thoughtfulness that she brings. Seeing her live earlier this year only fortified her vocal talent and shared a deeper connection as she explained, “this album is about love, and loving the person you have.” It’s clear in her lyrics that Jordan has a love and she shares the vulnerability of her situations. This album is catchy, the notes are clean, it’s sad, and it’s relatable from an emotional sense. In some ways, it’s simply put but that’s why it’s so enjoyable to listen to. Also, Jordan is 19 which only means that if she’s producing, writing, and playing as well as she is now, rest assured there’s more good stuff to come from Snail Mail.
Notable Songs: Pristine, Let’s Find an Out, Heat Wave
2. Parquet Courts — Wide Awake!
Wide Awake! A Parquet Courts album that you could definitely dance to at a party and you might get some questions, but compared to their screechier riffs, and bold rock tones, this album packs the funk. It’s politically charged, lyrically captivating, along with enough wit and charm to bring you back again and again. Andrew Savage’s distinct yet smooth voice creates another dimension to Parquet Courts that rounds this album out into a fantastic piece. Wide Awake! also successfully showcases a variety of punk, rock, funk, and even jazz without completely drowning itself out. Overall, every song is worth a listen and I’m excited that Parquet Courts took a risk to do something different.
Notable Songs: Tenderness, Total Football, Before the Water Get’s to High, Wide Awake!
3. Lucy Dacus — Historian
Time to cry. Time to hit you right in the gut. Time for being a beautiful vocalist. The perfect winter solstice spin.
Notable songs: Nightshift, Yours and Mine, Nonbeliever
4. U.S. Girls — In a Poem Unlimited
Production! Jazz! Pop! Fizzle! Pomp!
It’s a new era of political pop and I hope that U.S. Girls is spearheading it. This record highlights the anger as a woman, but done so in a way that allows you to laugh at yourself and even groove around. There has to be at least 12 band members in this album as the saxophone swells, bass trembles, and vocals roll. Creating new narratives though funk and pop allows U.S. Girls to create a platform that people can engage with, explore, and appreciate.
Notable songs: Velvet for Sale, Rage of Plastics, Pearly Gates
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra — Sex & Food
UMO, objectively a fantastic band because their production is so carefully considered and creatively crafted. Happy to say that this quality continues with Sex & Food as UMO continues to produce a unique record that is lyrically personal, and musically unique. 70’s psychedelic rock, Ruban Nielson’s distinct and reverberated voice, as well as the band’s attention to detail continues to excite it’s following. Sex & Food was a more mellow sound in comparison to Multi-love and initially seemed less memorable. With more listens however, the album revealed the intention and thoughtfulness and it quickly grew on me.
Notable songs: American Guilt, Hunnybee, If You’re Going to Break Yourself
6. The Garden — Mirror Might Steal Your Charm
Do you ever discover something so strange, so alluring, so unique that you just can’t quite get it out of your head? Like a random crush that you met at the airport, more curious about them than interested but still, it keeps you wondering. That’s Mirror Might Steal Your Charm. Wyatt and Fletcher Shears, identical twin brothers from OC, California are the only two band members. Wyatt takes to the bass making incredible punk riffs that reverberate and energize while Fletcher is a phenomenal drummer creating complex beats that complement his brother so well. Mirror Might Steal Your Charm feels a bit like a strange carnival with references to wizards, infomercials, and voodoo. Though the songs vary on the album from more comprehensive to less, the album as a whole feels complete and gives you just enough to appreciate the sound, but come back to discover more. Epitaph took a chance on the Garden and I think it’ll really pay off given their talent, creativity, and new age of music that the Shears brother’s label as “Vada vada.” Essentially, anything could happen but their experimental punk reign has just begun.
Notable songs: Call the Dogs Out, Who am I Going to Share all This Wine With?, Make a Wish, No Destination
7. Car Seat Headrest — Twin Fantasy
Will Toledo, you do it again! So this album was technically a production re-release of his 2011 album (that was very rare and hard to find) so most are considering this a 2018 album. All that aside, Twin Fantasy was a fantastic album filled with heartache, incredible sound (thanks to the addition of Seattle’s Naked Giants) and overall the perfect combo of well-produced garage rock. Part of me wishes that Toledo would still record his music from his actual Car Seat Headrest (origin story!!!) but the quality in this record also makes it really enjoyable to listen to. In the song, Beach Life-in-death Toledo cracks open a beer, takes a slurp and dives right into the lyrics of this incredible 13+ minute song that like a wave crashes over you to experience a variety of feelings and emotions. In a lot of ways, this feels like the whole album, a wave. Toledo sings of his mental illness, his depression, his pit of despair, but yet CSH still manages to round itself out with the upbeat music and Toledo’s matter-of-fact delivery. It’s emotion without being emotional and somehow that makes it easier to digest.
Notable songs: Beach Life-in-death, Cute Thing, Sober to Death
8. Hinds — I Don’t Run
Hinds is fun, cute, and down-to-earth and I’m glad that I Don’t Run captured all of this so well. This album was mostly about love; falling into it, out of it, getting burned, and then swearing off love. Hinds combines the vocals of almost all four of the band members, all Madrid Spanish cuties who you can tell are probably all close friends and truly enjoy what they do. They bring an energy that makes you feel right at home yet you can appreciate their vulnerability. Seeing them live in SF this year also confirmed that they really know how to have a great time and enjoy all of their fans. I Don’t Run continues to solidify Hinds’ ability to create an cheeky punk album while still experimenting and creating new sounds and styles.
Notable songs: Tester, Finally Floating, Linda, The Club
9. Young Fathers — Cocoa Sugar
Young Fathers is a Scottish Experimental Rap band and in Cocoa Sugar the band creates a beautiful texture of sound, lyrics, and harmonies that result in a unique and memorable album. Muffled voices, layers of sound, pointed lyrics, and an array of back-up vocals results in a well-rounded and carefully crafted album. Cocoa Sugar is prolific, lyrically deep, and gives you a lot to mull over. It’s an album to listen to front to back and will continue to be relevant as it asks the harder questions.
Notable songs: Tremelo, Wow, Border Girl, Wire, Picking You
10. Beach House — 7
Beach House takes the size of the sound and makes it even bigger than before. 7 continues to reflect Beach House’s incredible ability to link a soundscape with a heart string and pull you into the depth of what music can provide. Voices become sounds, and lyrics become feeling. Beach House, if you let it, will allow you to sink deeper into the sense of music and explore a meditative appreciation for what you’re consuming. 7, like all of Beach House’s albums is beautiful and powerful. I’m grateful for the visual album too as it helps to paint a clearer picture for what Legrand and Scally want you to see.
Notable songs: Dark Spring, Pay no Mind, Lemon Glow,