December 14, 2018

Stinkweeds: Best of 2018

We want to offer our deepest gratitude for all of you, our dear customers, new and old. Over the past few years, we’ve been seeing so many new faces, looking for every kind of music imaginable. Stinkweeds is an ever-changing creature. We’ve found that our customers are that special kind of music fan who want to go down those unknown roads. As you may know, most of us working here have been here a long time. But we never grow tired of these little journeys we get to go on with you. We look forward to many more journeys and many more conversations about the good stuff. We hope you enjoy these picks from everyone at Stinkweeds and our extended family of loyal customers who have helped make this store what it is.
This list only includes album that were released as tangible copies. No “download only” albums are included. This was very important to us, for obvious reasons, being a record store. But more importantly, we believe that listening to music is an active experience.

Thank you for everything you are to us,

-Stinkweeds

Lindsay Cates

Stinkweeds Manager/Buyer
Holy smokes, another year down! And once again, it’s overwhelming to limit my favorite albums of the year to just five. This is a tiny sample of the incredible talent that surfaced this year. In no particular order:

Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love [Dead Oceans]

For anyone interested in the folk-noir stylings of Angel Olsen, Timber Timbre, Molly Burch or anything drawing comparisons to Roy Orbison, look no further than Marlon Williams. This New Zealand youngster has musical sensibilities and a voice far beyond his age. Make Way For Love swings and swoons and forces a closer listen.

Loma – Loma [Sub Pop]

This was a wonderful surprise, released to little fanfare. Fans of Shearwater must listen to this gem. It’s a bit of a side project for Shearwater mainman Jonathan Meiburg. You’ll hear his influence all over this record; from backing vocals, to guitar effects, found sounds and atmospherics, the eerie miasma is palpable. The real draw however, is vocalist Emily Cross. Her breathy vocals mixed with dark and minimal instrumentation is incredibly gripping. This album gallops, comes to a screeching halt and dances off into the darkness. Their live show was one of this year’s most memorable. Listen, listen again, listen with headphones and listen some more. There is a lot to be discovered here.

U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited [4AD]

I’ve always appreciated the stark, minimal, feminist themes and weird, lo-fi sounds of Meg Remy’s previous albums. At first listen, In A Poem Unlimited was a confusing departure. Don’t let the slow burning funk, disco and synth anthems fool you. Remy has a whole lot to share, and she’s gonna get her razor sharp wit and angst across while you’re shaking your booty.

Rolling Blackouts – Hope Downs [Sub Pop]

I love every thing this band has released and didn’t realize Hope Downs is just now their first full-length. Hard to imagine, since their previous EPs had so much to offer. Rolling Blackouts write songs that are urgent, anthemic, fun and disjointed, think The Go-Betweens or offerings from Flying Nun. This is true guitar pop, the kind that blindsides you with wit and propels you forward with groove.

Lera Lynn – Plays Well With Others [Single Lock Records]

I think I really like duet records. Musical collaboration breaks up the mood, adds perspective, and plays around with storytelling in dramatic ways. On Plays Well With Others, Lera Lynn dives in and experiments with different ways of singing, playing and writing. She’s been playing in and around the Nasvhille roots scene for the last decade, but this album really puts her on the map, collaborating with heavy hitters like Rodney Crowell, JD McPherson and John Paul White, to name a few. There’s at least one conversation on this record everyone can relate to.
Close seconds/Can’t live withouts
Dick Stusso – In Heaven (Hardly Art)
Beak – >>> (Temporary Residence)
Matthew Dear – Bunny (Ghostly International)
Caroline Rose – Loner (New West)
Tropical Fuck Storm – Laughing Death In Meat Space (Joyful Noise)
Papercuts – Parallel Universe Blues (Slumberland)
Neko Case – Hell On (Anti)

Kimber Lanning

Stinkweeds Owner

The Love LanguageBaby Grand [Merge]

Admittedly, I am late to the party with this band, having still not listened to their first three records. I am told this is wholly different than previous efforts and, since I love it, why look back? The ‘band’ is really this guy Stuart McLamb with a rotating set of musicians. WOW. There are hints of shoegaze here, mixed with horns, synths and acoustic numbers that somehow blend together with great energy. This is a record that everyone asks about when we play it in the store. Can’t listen to it without bobbing your head and smiling.

Great Lake SwimmersThe Waves the Wake [Nettwerk]

Canadian frontman Tony Dekker never disappoints! This album is quite a lot different than their others in that they’ve invited in a great array of musicians to add layers of diverse instrumentation (marimba, pipe organ and harp, to name a few) that fill out the band’s more traditional folk sound. Stark and bold, this album balances the old and the new beautifully.

Crooked FingersRed Devil Dawn [Merge]

Eric Bachmann’s (Archers of Loaf, Barry Black) voice warms me,  and this new album is headed back in the direction of his first solo record. Diverse in their contexts (Latin-inspired tempos to cruise ship smarm), the dark and unexpected lyrics hold his records together. I get lost in the storyline every time.

Khruangbin Con Todo El Mundo [Dead Oceans]

Hard to believe at time that this is simply a trio from Houston. Pulling from music the world over, Khruangbin (Thai for ‘airplane’) stands alone in the way that Sigur Ros did and then Tinariwen after that. No category here- nothing off limits in the effort to create lush soundscapes that could suffocate an entire audience under mountains of rose petals. Simply beautiful. I think maybe Thievery Corporation wishes they could pull this off.

PapercutsParallel Universe Blues [Slumberland]

Jason Quever is Papercuts and this is his 6th release as such. I hadn’t much noticed him before- a ‘nice’ band that never made me dig deeper. But the songs clustered here harken back to the perfect 90’s time when I heard the first wave of Creation bands for the first time. And I am beyond grateful that Slumberland continues to release such great records as this. Not as lo-fi as in the past, Parallel Universe Blues adds just the right amount of polish to the mix which causes this to sound fresh and new as opposed to typical.

Honorable Mention:
Devotchka
Neko Case
Low

Paula Tesoriero

Stinkweeds Staffer/Social Media Guru

Cut Worms – Hollow Ground [Jagjaguwar]

The moment I first encountered this album I got remarkably excited. I’ve always considered myself as an old woman in a 20-some year old’s body and due to that seem to have a stronger admiration for the past, especially in terms of music. This album doesn’t sound like it was created in the last 30 years, hence my initial draw to it. Max Clarke is the creator of Cut Worms and he certainly knows how to string together a good old-fashioned melody. With songs like “Don’t Want To Say Good-bye”, “Till Tomorrow Goes Away” and ” Cash For Gold”, I’m taken to a different time, and all I want to do in that time is go to a dance hall and have a swell time. He seems to pull quite a bit from a more 50’s kind of sound, and at times almost has a Beatles-esque sound. We were able to host an in-store for the group on the album’s actual release day at Stinkweeds! Hearing all of these songs live gave me an even more intense appreciation for Clarke’s song craftsmanship. If you’re like me and ever want to feel nostalgic for the vintage past, I highly suggest this album!

Tony Molina – Kill The Lights [Slumberland Records]

With the longest track being 2 minutes and 24 seconds, and the average track spanning 1 minute and 20 seconds, Tony Molina captivates and just about satisfies with this almost sampler-like album. Molina offers up what almost feels like unfinished thoughts to the listener, but upon completing the album you feel that it was enough. It’s an odd feeling where I wish there was more but I’m also OK with what it is. These fragments are heart-felt and real, that’s one thing I like the most about the album. I feel like Molina isn’t trying, he’s just doing. There is no pomp nor circumstance to this record. It’s just as real as you or myself. There’s definitely some skillful guitar work thrown in as well, and his melodies (which if you can’t tell by now are what I’m drawn to most) are quite compelling. Do yourself a favor and give “Kill The Lights” a listen- it won’t take long.

Montero – Performer [Chapter Music]

For those who don’t already know, Bjenny Montero is our favorite adorably and heartbreakingly sincere illustrator. His comics have been used for t-shirts and posters for the likes of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Mac Demarco, Khruangbin, and even Captured Tracks! Aside from being a talented artist, Montero released and album this year titled “Performer” that I just can’t get enough of! This synth heavy album definitely has a retro feel to it, but think more 80s. If you want a prime example of this, check out the song “Running Race”. This one even has a bit of a Bowie sound to me as well. I believe the record is aptly named, as it has a big and dramatic sound to it. When listening to this record I can easily envision an appropriately made up Montero singing to a sea of crying and shouting individuals.

Caroline Says – No Fool Like An Old Fool  [Western Vinyl]

Switching gears, another favorite album of mine is the latest Caroline Says record. This slightly ethereal and dreamy album lulls and pulls; it’s restful but also creates within one a bit of anticipation. This album begins with a song appropriately titled “First Song”, and gives a good indication of what to expect for the rest of your listening experience. One of the things I love most about this album is that it easily transports me to a different place, and this place is overcast- and this place is surrounded by fields- and these fields are flourishing- and even though I’ve never been to this place, this place is home. It can be difficult to find the time to venture off and discover a new area, but this album lets you take a little trip internally. That trips leaves you feeling content and ready for your next task.

The Saxophones – Songs Of The Saxophones [Full Time Hobby]

I actually had the great fortune of playing with The Saxophones at The Trunk Space back in 2014. I was as amazed then as I am now by the fact that even as a duo, I never felt like anything was missing from their sound. Anything added would simply detract from the music and overall magical quality to their sound. The Saxophones are a husband and wife duo which I think also helps create a uniquely sincere sound. In “Songs Of The Saxophones” it feels like the two created some more singer-songwriter type music and added some tiny bells and whistles to turn those songs into a new genre for me. I can understand singer-songwriter music, I can understand music performed by a bigger band with a bigger and more intricate sound, but I feel that The Saxophones rest well between the two. To me this isn’t an album that entices you right off the bat. It’s a slow build, but when it happens you get lost in translation, and it feels fine.


Dario Miranda

Stinkweeds Staffer/Blog Master

Adrianne Lenker – Abysskiss [Saddle Creek]

Fans of the band Big Thief know this side of Adrianne Lenker. Their albums feature a couple tracks where the protective barrier of a band is taken away for a brief moment and we are left only with the crushing vulnerability of Lenker’s voice, words and guitar. But, where a decision was made as to which song would be given this position on any Big Thief album, Abysskiss gives it to every song. There are songs that would work well with a full band. But without this security blanket, Lenker is put in a position to be as personal and vulnerable as she likes. I was initially excited to see that this album was produced by long time favorite recording artist, Luke Temple. However, the production was so stark, it almost has none of his fingerprints on there. Perhaps this is why he is one of my favorites.
I don’t have a whole lot more to share about the songs on this album. Like with everything Lenker writes, the songs are very personal with strange imagery that evokes strong emotions, even if the meaning of the words is a bit elusive. What I get from Lenker’s music may be completely different than what you will get. But if you’re open to a visceral emotional experience, I would recommend any albums Adrianne Lenker has recorded. This one will stay in my collection for those very specific moods.

Related Honorables:
Stephen Steinbrink – Utopia Teased [Western Vinyl]
Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed [Secretly Canadian]
Lucy Dacus – Historian [Matador]

Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death In Meatspace [Joyful Noise]

Maybe any other time in my lifetime a name like Tropical Fuck Storm would be reserved for middle finger wielding 20 somethings. Today, these words are an appropriate response to the world and just as likely to be spoken by fed up 40 somethings. Where the music might have been irreverent rock and roll, it can now apply to masterfully conceived, chaotic arrangement that are sonically exciting and unsettling at the same time.

TFS was born out from the hiatus of Australian art-punk band The Drones. Members Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin were looking to expand on some creative ideas. As guitarist Erica Dunn recalls “They just rang me up. Gareth and Fi were on loudspeaker like excited children. The pitch was ‘Do you want to play guitar? We’re just going to do some weird shit.’ There is an undeniable maturity to this band, with as much attention given to silence and space as is given to loudness and intensity. The guitar parts are Marc Ribot-esque, with all the anti-solos and dissonant chords. The bass lines are sloppy and overdriven. The drums are as much John Bonham as they are Iku Mori or Tom Waits. Gareth Liddiard rants his grievances with a narrative style that isn’t to dissimilar to Nick Cave, with maybe a lot less swagger and more frustrated rage. Not to get too hung up on the name of this band, but who hasn’t used a phrase like “tropical fuck storm” in the past couple years. Who hasn’t felt a little uneasy and angry and weird and sad at the same time? This is a new rock n roll. It’s not flashy. It’s not catchy. It’s just mad and sad and weird as shit, because that’s where we are. But, it has a voice. That’s how we get through this. To borrow a cliche, “if it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.” A lot is getting “mentioned” here. But, that’s how we figure it out. Art has that power. Yes it can be unsettling, at times. But, that’s where it gets it’s power.

Related Honorables:
Idles – Joy As An Act of Resistance [Partisan]
Suuns – Felt [Secretly Canadian]

Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra – Dirt…And More Dirt [Pi Recordings]

This “pick” had been reserved for the newly released, lost John Coltrane album. How exciting to have the opportunity to review a NEW John Coltrane album. Then I thought about John Coltrane and his music. He didn’t care for nostalgia. He obviously wasn’t concerned with the music he had recorded in the past. I mean, the album was “lost.” You don’t LOSE an entire album if you’re so concerned with preserving history. No, he went on. He went forward, and so did music. It followed Coltrane, trying to keep up with the trails he blazed. Then he left. And those musicians blazed their own trails, already deep into it, where their leader had taken them.
Henry Threadgill is one of the most active and innovative musicians to come out of the 1970s experimental jazz scene. His use of unconventional instrumentation and the seamless combination of composition and improvisation gives his music a strange kind of precarious cohesion. The improvisation is halting and reserved, perhaps to compensate for the sheer number of musicians contributing at any one time. It makes for some very complex textures that are fleeting in a way that takes the tune on a constant journey. When everything meets, it’s that much more surprising. My most favorite moments on this album only last for a couple seconds, never to be revisited again. It is a lesson in letting go. The listener isn’t allowed the comfort of familiarity. This makes each moment special, and once settled in, all moments become your favorite…in that moment.

Related Honorables:
John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once [Impulse!]
Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids – An Angel Fell [Strut]

Low – Double Negative [Sub Pop]

I’m going to say something about the new Low album that I never thought I would say about a Low album. The first song made our stereo receiver shut off from being overloaded! In all the years of playing some heavy shit in the store, the band to push our system to the limit was LOW!
This may come as a surprise to those of you who are familiar with the lush, quiet sadness that is Low. Since the early nineties, they have been the aggressively quiet band that always had us leaning in for a better listen. This change of course, has been a point of contention for some fans. And if they’re coming into this album with expectations, I don’t blame them. However, I would urge you to give this a few listens. Underneath the crushing weight of distortion and “slambient” waves of sound, you’ll find your precious band, still harmonized and pensive as ever. It could be argued that this new production goes beyond exploring the space of the studio and into the realm of “remixed.” But in the end, these were their choices and behind those choices are intent. Listening to this album outside of the expectations of this long beloved band, you’ll find your pulse raised and that little bit of tension we all seek from the thrills of horror films or walking the edge of cliffs. I once read that Low experimented with quiet because so much of what surrounded them was loud. They pioneered a sound that influenced so many bands over the past 25+ years. Perhaps that rebellious spirit is partly what drove them to push those new extremes. If they put out an album that sounded like their earlier works, I would have enjoyed it, but it most likely wouldn’t have been a favorite, let alone a top 5.

Related Honorables:
Colin Stetson – Hereditary Soundtrack [Milan]

Orquesta Akokan – Self-Titled [Daptone]

Now, for the pallet cleanser. There’s not a whole lot I could say about this album that couldn’t been said of a classic Prez Prado record or even some of the Cuban-inspired works of Dizzy Gillespie. But this is 2018! And it says a lot to be making this music now, with that level of energy and style. Of course, who but Daptone Records would be behind sharing this sort of time capsule. They have been behind some of the best in revivalist music, ranging from soul/R&B to Rocksteady to Afro-Beat. But, Orquesta Akokan stands apart from these. Much like the legendary automobiles of Cuba, not much is made new. They are skilled in touching up the old and broken to keep it running and keep it beautiful. Where some bands might aim to pay tribute to a sound from the past, Orquesta Akokan lives and breathes this music. And this comes across on this album. Like with all Daptone recordings, the sound gets it as right as the music. There’s a timbre to their albums that tricks us into thinking we’re listening to some great “lost old.” But again, on this album, that sound comes from recording at the legendary state run Estudio Arieto, one of the oldest, still running recording studios in the world. That classic sound isn’t a “thing” on this album. It just is.

Cuba is a rare kind of time capsule. As tempted as I am to want to explore it, now that the capsule has been cracked open, giving us a peak inside, I also want to leave it alone. There’s also some air that needs to be cleared and simple observers can wreak havoc on this sort of progress. But for now, how fortunate that we can be fully immersed in the music of this island. I hope to hear more from Orquesta Akokan (hopefully in a live setting) and I’m sure we’ll be treated to many more amazing releases from Daptone Records, in the near future.

Related Honorables:
Tal National – Tantabara [Fat Cat]
Jr. Thomas & the Volcanos – Rockstone [Colemine]


Jeff Taylor

Spirit of the Beehive – Hypnic Jerks [Tiny Engines]

I had heard this band before 2018, but when I saw Spirit Of The Beehive live this summer, it totally changed my perspective on their sound and style. That’s not an experience that’s common for me outside the realm of bands with such a lo-fi aesthetic. I was absolutely blown away by the half hour opening set they played this summer at The Rebel Lounge, and immediately became obsessed with their previous album pleasure suck. Their music takes drastic twists and turns when they’re least expected, and the band makes frequent use of conversational sampling – these elements, paired with the lo-fi style of their recordings (the intentionality of which becomes more and more apparent with each listen), creates a sound that takes you to another place, in a way. While that seems so cliche to me as I type it, it really does seem like the universe that SOTB resides in is not the same one that I’m living in. This band is doing something truly special and unique, and I’m thankful that the year that I really “discovered” them, I got a new album to dive into, too.

Ovlov – Tru [Exploding in Sound]

The return of Ovlov did not disappoint. I was a fan of their previous album Am, but that record didn’t quite hit me the way that this sweet, little 30 minute album does. Tru is totally packed front to back with aggressive, heavily distorted / fuzzed out, driving riffs – most of them catchy, but not relying on a simple hook to carry the tune. Frontman Steve Hartlett (who also is responsible for the Stove album on my list that came out near the end of this year) sings in a consistently calm manner, with a sort of gentleness that allows his voice to coast over the energy of the band behind him. RIYL Dinosaur Jr, GBV, etc etc…..

Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo [Night Time Stories]

I’m very glad this band is really gaining steam the last couple years. They’ve been putting out the coolest, mellow, groovy tunes for a while now – with heavy influence from southeast Asian pop, rock and funk. It’s sort of like the perfect elevator or lounge music, but that description doesn’t do them justice. It’s my go-to “house music,” whether it’s playing overhead between bands at a show, or just setting the vibe at a party.

Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want [Ipecac]

The rage album on this year’s list. This group never disappoints. The wait is always long between their releases, but it’s never a frustrating experience because the music they release continues to impress. Daughters has consistently shifted over the years – from their grindcore beginnings, to their extremely frantic noise / hardcore era, to the more straightforward metal self titled album a few years ago…. and now this. YWGWYW is a fascinating listen – this record is dark, unsettling, and truly one of the most unique albums to listen to from start to finish that I’ve found in a very long time. It’s honestly tough to put this one into words. It’s a jarring listen, and one that I’d highly recommend taking the time to sit down and listen to for anyone that’s into heavy, noisy, riff-driven rock.
Palm – Rock Island [Carpark]
The band that made my list two years in a row! This group is so solid. They’ve done something really cool with this record – shifting their dense, patterned / rhythmic guitar style into new territory with heavy use of new midi pickups… opening up a new range of interesting sounds that stack well, making extremely catchy tunes that are still complex and exciting.

Honorable Mentions
Stove – ‘s Favorite Friend
Mimicking Birds – Layers Of Us
Amen Dunes – Freedom
Tripaw’d – snoozy
The Sidekicks – Happiness Hours
Porches – The House
Forth Wanderers – FW
Sam Evian – You, Forever
Leon Bridges – Good Thing
Hovvdy – Cranberry
Ought – Room Inside The World
also Men I Trust – they only released a string of singles this year, but each was great, and whatever album these inevitably end up on will surely make the list next year.


Iris Andrade

Musically, 2018 had me researching acts that pilgrimage to SXSW, compiling more than 100 of which made my “curious about” cuts with a first quarter jam packed with so many new artists to a near complete stop when my home computer decided to never get through to the start page, leading me to have a deprived summer of downloading tunes and threw me off my normal music searching until mid-fall—luckily there’s always heading in to Stinkweeds for hard copy outputs. Then there’s my car that has CD rejection syndrome, like a kid who is highly picky with the food he/she intakes, it spews most new discs out so when I’m driving, I only have a few CD options that can be played, made for a year of much discover to one of constant repeat of a few bands. With such obstacles–and me not quite open to Bluetooth methods on the road, my music intake did not thrive as much as prior years, but still, some real gems seeped through. Thank goodness. These are my Top 5.

Collections of Colonies of Bees – Hawaii [Polyvinyl]

In all honesty, this album was the soundtrack to my summer. I listened to it on repeat, and even now, as the end draws near on the year, it is still in rotation. Drawn in by the art–by Shawn Stephany–on my hard copy and the fact that it is titled “Hawaii”–my childhood home–might’ve had some initial impact on me taking a chance on this album. Later I discovered that the band were co-conspirators to Justin Vernon’s Volcano Choir–which added momentum to Vernon’s more somber and hushed offerings as Bon Iver that I took to much more due to the pace of the instrumentation being faster and varying. I think what I like about CoCoB is the cadence to their songs… and having added the vocals of Marielle Allschwang their new formation was like a perfect musical storm for my taste. The tracks that have imprinted on me the most are “Harms,” “Giibs” and “Ruins.”

Virginia Wing – Ecstatic Arrow [Fire Records]

I heard a clip of “The Second Shift” in an ad offering up Virginia Wing’s latest effort, Ecstatic Arrow and my ears couldn’t get enough of its worldly jazzy indie output… I immediately went to Stinkweeds and had Lindsay order me Ecstatic Arrow and upon receipt my ears delighted in a very varied offering. Sometimes sounding spoken word, 80’s-pop/darkwave-esque and even worldly. Their lyrics drew me in, often with lines lifting above the soundscape upon initial listens and straight into my heart and mind so Ecstatic Arrow became an album I had a camaraderie with… Like a new same-aged acquaintance that just “gets you” but also introduces you to new experiences, like eating a new to you cuisine or sharing a piece of art by an artist you’ve never known before… tracks like “Female Genius” and “Be Released,” really have lyrical content that hits my core.

Rubblebucket – Sun Machine [Grand Jury]

In late summer, I saw an ad for Rubblebucket’s Sun Machine. It featured the video for “Fruity” and Kalmia Traver’s voice in a spoken word output reminiscent of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” just drew me in, as did the stark and simple white backdrop and her and Alex Toth’s awkward yet synchronized dancing… they appealed to my quirky musical senses. Cut to November, when they played Crescent ballroom, to witness their live show is a treat, as their songs create a unique energy of camaraderie, with fun and let-loose vibes. The marching band horns gives way to a grand band march off the stage, and captivated by the pied piper-ness of it all, we follow after them, under their musical spell. They bring their A-Game to their live show with their sound–a merger between jazzy instrumentation and indie fare that makes for a fun ride. As they sing in the opening track, “Come along with me if you want to take a break.” Don’t mind if I do.

H. Takahashi – Escapism [Not Not Fun Records]

I don’t take to instrumental albums very often, but this one drew me in. Due to an instagram posted by Virginia Wing’s Alice Richards, I decided to look this artist up and, wow. It’s a lot of electronic bleeps and blips but arranged in a way that this lyric driven listener is captivated by its crystalline beauty and conceptual inspiration. Its creator, Hiroki Takahashi is an architect of both physical and audible landscapes and the melodies were inspired by his “dissatisfaction with the reality he feels on a daily basis.” Escapism, yes, don’t we all want to do that at times… to someplace that provides relief, understanding and comfort from the daily banes of life?

 

Here’s to escaping to a better new year! I look forward to 2019’s music drops!
s

Jason Baker

Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed [Secretly Canadian]

I’ve been a huge fan of Jurado for many years. Side A of this album is his masterpiece. “Allocate” opens the LP and sets the mood with its hushed orchestration. “Percy Faith” has several references to the city of Phoenix, where Jurado lived for some time as a kid. “The Last Great Washington State” is his tribute to his former home state, having recently moved to California. Simply put, this LP is beautiful and a master class in songwriting.

Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo [Dead Oceans]

This album is hard to describe, other than I love listening to it. The bass lines, that guitar, those drums…all combine in a funked up, psych out, stew for your soul. Put the needle on, turn it up loud and enjoy.

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread – S/T [Full Time Hobby]

I’ve been a fan of Nau, since his days in Cotton Jones. I really dig the arrangements on this LP, more than any of his previous albums. It has the type of melodies that linger in the mind long after its ended.

RF Shannon – Trickster Blues [Cosmic Dreamer]

I’ll keep this one simple. The best album to take a night drive thru the desert to. Try it, and you will see what I mean.

Loma – S/T [Sub Pop]

This LP came out early in 2018, and I never forgot about it. The songs contain haunting vocals with dark orchestration.
It creates a dazzling juxtaposition that reveals itself with every listen.

Justin Yee

Amen Dunes – Freedom [Sacred Bones]

If I had to pick one record I continuously kept coming back to throughout the year it was this one…I never grew tired of it. I found myself on a bachelor party trip in Denver the same weekend they were performing at Globe Hall, and my buddy Cal and I made the best decision to branch off from our group at Red Rocks to catch this intimate performance. I can’t say that I’ve followed Damon McMahon’s career up until this release, but I’ve been one of his biggest advocates when anyone has asked for music recommendations. I can’t wait to see him again in January at Crescent Ballroom. Hope to see y’all there!

Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo [Dead Oceans]

I’ve been following Khruangbin closely since I first caught their set at SXSW in 2015. It’s been fun to watch their quick rise to selling out big venues in just a short amount of time. Spotify told me I listened to these guys more than any other artist this year, and I’m not surprised. Their music is the perfect accompaniment to just about any passive activity. Cooking, reading, riding your bike? Every track is pleasant and at times danceable in a crunchy kind of way.

Travis Scott – Astroworld [Cactus Jack]

Trap music is another genre I typically steer clear of, but Astroworld is much more than that. It set a new benchmark for the genre and redefined it in the process. Scott became a superstar off of this album, and it was deserving. Collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, James Blake and John Mayer to name a few, all contribute to the next level production that all producers need to catch up to.

Blood Orange – Negro Swan [Domino]

Negro Swan manages to be Dev Hynes’ most autobiographical and intimate Blood Orange album yet. It’s richly produced, layering guitars, synths, and heartbreaking lyrics. It’s a super engaging listen that is easy to get lost in. “Charcoal Baby” stands out as one of my favorite tracks of the year, but the album as a whole needs to be listened to front to back.

 

A.A.L. (Against All Logic) – 2012 – 2017 [Other People]

This album appeared out of nowhere in 2018, but it might have been what electronic music producer Nicolas Jaar intended with a surprise release under an obscure alias – Against All Logic. House Music is a genre I don’t typically seek out, but I’ve been a fan of basically everything Jaar has released over the years. 2012-2017 is a compilation of songs created during that period, previously unreleased but recognized by fans of his performances. What makes this album so unique is how stark of a contrast it has to the common perceptions of house: its songs are intricately layered, full of unrecognizable instruments, soul sampling, that make it such a joy to listen to.
2018 RUNNER UPS
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! [Rough Trade]
The Internet – Hive Mind [Columbia]
MGMT – Little Dark Age [Columbia]
Beach House – 7 [Sub Pop]
Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs [Tan Cressida/Columbia]

 

Connor Descheemaker

The HIRS Collective – Friends. Lovers. Favorites. [Get Better/SRA]

Following hot on the heels of recent DIY hardcore sensations G.L.O.S.S., The HIRS Collective doesn’t ask for permission or forgiveness; you have never heard grind or powerviolence like this before. People argue that these new queercore bands are just aping their straight cis-male knuckle-dragging counterparts, but those posers are plain wrong–HIRS beats your ass for your own good but refuses to let you stay down to get trampled in the pit, reminding you that “It’s Ok to be Sad” and “It’s OK to Be Sick.” Featuring such disparate guests as Shirley Manson, Laura Jane Grace, Martin Crudo, Pierce from Soul Glo, Erica of RVIVR, Alice Bag, Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females, and yes, Sadie from G.L.O.S.S., HIRS imagines a future of not just trans survival, but trans rulership through fierce, thirty-second blasts of righteous anger and expression. Based on how our current world is faring, that world sounds pretty utopian to this straight cis-male.

Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile [Impulse!]

This crew led by musical polymath Shabaka Hutchings is stewarding the legacy of Chicago’s AACM “across the pond,” reminding people that jazz not only was, but perhaps must be, black liberation music. Emerging from the Brownswood Recordings crew (check out their comp “We Out Here” for further reference), Sons of Kemet refocuses our attention on the black queens that have shepherded freedom across the globe, from Ada Eastman, to Harriet Tubman, to Angela Davis. The record itself blends jazz, hip-hop, and afrobeat into a startling blend, but you must see them live to experience their full transcendence. I saw the band a few months back where they played for 100 minutes to a dancing, mixed-race crowd (use this as a gauge for if yr jazz scene is useful or useless) in a basement venue and I feel like I barely breathed, taking in movement after movement of propulsive, hypnotic rhythms from two drummers bashing out polyrhythms behind a tuba and tenor sax duo. The only pause came when Hutchings spoke to the audience for five, perfectly-eloquent minutes about the power of liberation music, black power, and community consciousness, driving home the point that perhaps the most political inspiring act of the year was a mostly-instrumental one–you can color a lot of your heart and mind with just sound.

Lonnie Holley – Mith [Jagjaguwar]

It is beyond bizarre to me that Lonnie Holley is perhaps the most “indie-famous” artist on my list. Despite a lifetime of creating globally-collected assemblage and mixed-media visual art, Holley emerged into the music scene less than ten years ago on the essential Dust-To-Digital label. His songs shared mostly-improvised and ever-evolving ruminations on race, class, community, and culture, unleashing his incredible wealth of experience, exasperation, and hope with crowds of white Pitchfork-ites, largely there to see stare-and-nod sets from Deerhunter and others of their ilk. Holley is patient, awaiting the right moments for healthy exuberance in his latest, showcasing perhaps more “soul” and composition than ever before, jamming in lurching lockstep with his assembled band. Reaching a peak of righteous anger with the twinned “I Snuck Off The Slave Ship” and “I Woke Up In A Fucked Up America,” Holley still shares hope and brevity by closing with “Sometimes I Just Wanna Dance,” reminding us that freedom comes from fighting *and* dancing, just like Emma Goldman, Sly & The Family Stone, and so many others have said.

Bad Moves – Tell No One [Don Giovanni]

Hoooooooo buddy, if you don’t get this one stuck in your head after just one listen, I am not sure where you find your hooks?? Bad Moves represents what I hope is the next America: A queer, mixed-race, mixed-gender band from our nation’s capital, writing sugary, righteous odes to love community, and hope. Everybody sings, everyone writes the songs, everybody better be dancing. I have been a fan of guitarist/vocalist David Combs since their days in Spoonboy and Max Levine Ensemble, but this latest turn alongside their three fellow songwriters is their most essential yet. The insistent melodies are in my head for days after each listen, and this record continues the streaks of genius brought to us by Don Giovanni Records, which day by day seems to be this generation’s K Records, this time with less white people, and better accounting.

Dear Nora – Skulls Example [Orindal]

This year, I moved away from my life-long home of Phoenix to the Pacific Northwest, as so many have done before me. Katy Davidson’s music has always evoked the desert, but now that I live in the forest, I think I really (really, really) “get” where their music is coming from. Reviving the dormant Dear Nora moniker following 2017’s successful Mountain Rock celebration, Skulls Example showcases a songwriter 20 years into their career, and still at the top of their game. The magic of Davidson’s music for me comes in the spaciousness and weirdness (desert) of the songs’ arcs, combining with dreary, at times slogging vocal melodies (forest) to express precisely what it means to be a desert rat retreating from the sun amongst the lush vegetation of a new home. This record reminds me precisely why I have for so long “Worship[ped] the Cactus,” and will continue to do so from Seattle.

Honorable Mention:

Turnspit-Desire Paths (self-released)
Makaya McCraven-Universal Beings (International Anthem)
Noname-Room 25 (self-released)
Restorations-LP5000 (Tiny Engines)
Caroline Rose-Loner (New West)


Jaymz Todd

SSION – O [Derro Arcade]

Throwing homage to the 80’s and 90’s cool of yesteryear, ‘O’, the third ‘official’ full-length album from audio-visual maestro Cody Critcheloe’s long running musical project, SSION, pulls out a tsunami of colorful textures and paints them in a darkly melancholic sludge of gloss. The album plays like the best haphazard musical selections from a jukebox opening with a sweet & gloomy retelling of Roy Orbison’s “As Big As I Can Dream”, then quickly jumps into the Madonna worship dance pop brilliance of “Comeback”, and 180 to a quick punk-infused cover of the Germ’s “Forming” – and that’s in the first seven minutes. After which the album mixes in a generous helpings of dance-punk, noise-pop, glo-fi, queerpop, freak-folk and 90’s alternative thrash (with special appearances from Ariel Pink, Devendra Banhart, Sky Ferreira, Hole’s Patty Schemel, Róisín Murphy and MNDR). There’s something to be said about the layering of atmospherics on this album and the textures throughout. With every listen you can hear a new pocket of sound, a joke, or an underlying conversation. Through it all the songs remain unforgettable, energetic and ridiculously tongue and cheek. Note: To really witness the genius of SSION youtube the videos, Comeback, Inherit, At Least the Sky is Blue and Heaven is My Thing Again.

Robyn – Honey [Embassy One]

Soft vocal melodies intertwined with flirty open beats command you to move –it’s hard not to dance while listening. Robyn has become more instinctual in her career – it’s been nearly 25 years since she first launched. She understands how to get into your heart, and this connection percolates throughout the album with subtle emotions, love notes and slinky rhythms from the opening track of ‘Missing U’ to the reflective closing track of ‘Ever Again’.

James – Living in Extraordinary Times [Infectious Music]

I won’t lie; James is quite possibly my favorite band – in their 15-album career no two songs or albums have sounded the same. Yes, they might have some similarities in their structure or tone, but they always have different lyrical content and musicality to their tracks. This is why they always appear at the top of my lists, as I truly never know what they will release, and that is liberating. With Living in Extraordinary Times James may have made their hardest and unfurled album yet – understandable given the circumstances of the world these days (i.e. Trump and Brexit.) The album is littered with a dystopian view and a sweet melancholy embrace. That’s not to say the album is miserable, in fact it’s nowhere near with its explosive tendencies of love, light and hope of a more euphoric future.

Goat Girl – Goat Girl [Rough Trade]

Goat Girl – Goat Girl [Rough Trade]

Four women hailing from London, making dark, jangly post-punk with a tinge of Cat Power-like alt country. Just listen. It’s worth it.

Leon Bridges – Good Thing [Columbia]

Leon Bridges – Good Thing [Columbia]

Shedding much of the throwback 60’s soul nostalgia from his first album, Leon Bridges reaches inward for a more earnest affection to build a contemporary and eclectic approach that finally allows him to come into his own.


Gerrit Feenstra

Moaning – Moaning [Sub Pop]

Hot damn Sub Pop had an absolutely insane year of releases between Bully, Beach House, J Mascis, Yuno, Mass Gothic, and Father John Misty. But for me, none of those hold a candle to the debut album from L.A. post-punk band Moaning. These guys played the weekend of their album release at the Flying Burrito Festival in Phoenix and since then have joined my list of “never ever under any condition miss a show” bands. This album is the culmination of years of work building a sound and crafting a perfect first impression. The obvious post-punk Gods are present here, but what really sets Moaning apart from their competition is the urgency behind their worldview. Where I feel like a lot of modern post-punk acts can seem to look a lot in the rearview, Moaning writes with a serious urgency about the future and after a couple listens, you believe every word of it. This record is infinitely repeatable. I wish I would have bought two copies because my cool Loser edition pink copy is already torched.

Pusha T – Daytona [Def Jam]

I saw Pusha T perform at The Pressroom a couple weeks ago. This was a makeup date, after he cancelled the original Daytona support date in Phoenix back in August. I have no idea whether or not the setlist or the general attitude of the set had changed in the three months difference, but at the show I saw, Push replaced about every third bar on his tracks with “ALBUM OF THE MOTHERFUCKIN YEAR”. Whether or not that’s necessarily true, when I listen to Daytona, that’s the confidence I feel surging through my veins like some kind of Bane venom shit. Where so many rap albums this year were bloated, streaming revenue-centric durges that spent way too much time trying to convince you of realities you didn’t believe in, Pusha T threw 21 minutes at the wall and all of it stuck. I think raw listens, I’ve listened to this record more than any other record on my list this year. My only qualm is that the vinyl edition splits between “Come Back Baby” and “Santeria”, when it would have fit the energy better to split between “Hard Piano” and “Come Back Baby”. But chances are, you’ll be flipping this one so many times any lost energy will fade with any depleting doubts.

DJ Koze – Knock Knock [Pampa]

Read any (*insert pretentious music publication here*) review of DJ Koze in the past 5 or so years and you get ridiculous descriptors like “sonic prankster”. My mind immediately goes to the Michael Bolton Jack Sparrow descriptor of “the jester of Tortuga”, but maybe that’s just me. What I’m trying to say is, no review will ever give you a good read on DJ Koze. You need to hear him with your own ears. You need to let your ears soak this in and question it and wonder why the hell you are so in love with this cosmically intangible collection of sounds and drums and emotions. I don’t know how he did it, but somehow, Koze one-upped his last record Amygdala and made Knock Knock just about the most kaleidoscopic 80 minutes you could dream up. I love how simple and minimal singles like “Pick Up” can exist side by side the dense madness of “Planet Hase”. It’s amazing. It’s a testament to what electronic music can make you feel without any traditional pop elements. Koze is the best man in his genre, because he’s in an audience of one.

Shopping – The Official Body [Fat Cat]

I’m a terrible Shopping fan. I remember a handful of notable singles of theirs crossing my radar back in like 2015 but in the age of constant spectral overload, I lost track of them. Lo and behold, I walk into Stinkweeds in early February of this year and there’s the record on the shelves. While The Official Body is less quirk-forward than previous records, it is 100% a more definitive and striking record. This three-piece UK post-punk act has gone from tongue-in-cheek consumerism takedown to straight up Delta 5 levels of idiosyncratic punk undermining. I think the first night I had this LP I listened to it straight through about four times. It is infinitely repeatable. We got super lucky this year to catch Shopping at the Rebel Lounge on the road to/from SXSW. One of those rare moments where you know that you don’t quite deserve the show that is happening in front of you. One of my favorite gigs of the year, and it had nothing to do with the fact that Rachel invited me onstage to dance (ok, maybe it did).

Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch [Null Corp]

At the second night of Nine Inch Nails shows at Comerica Theater this past September, Trent and the gang wrapped up new track “Over and Out”, which is about 8 minutes long and 5 of those minutes have Trent on sax. Mind you, this was the second song of the evening with Trent on sax, after “God Break Down The Door” broke me earlier in the evening. The song ends. He looks at the sax, then out at the crowd, then to Atticus. “Maybe we overdid it on the sax”, he says. Maybe, but probably not. In the mid to late 90s, David Bowie was instrumental in convincing Trent to get his shit together. This was in one of Bowie’s most trying artistic periods, in his 50s making records like Outside that largely went misunderstood by the public. Now in his own 50s, Trent is exploring similar themes as Outside, and even later 90s Bowie records like Earthling and Hours…, wondering what else is left to conquer in a ticking time bomb world where our own reality is so subjective in the vacuum void between the physical and digital self. Furthermore, Trent went FULL Bowie on Bad Witch, and I am 100% here for it. This record was the perfect end to the “trilogy” of NIN EPs/mini-albums over the past couple years, and it stands alone as an album. Beginning to end, this is the most inventive and radical stuff that Trent has given us since (fight me) Year Zero. Amazing record.

Brittany Feenstra

Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People [Play It Again Sam]

My husband sent me the video for “Don’t You Know I’m In A Band” one day at work. Half a listen deep and I knew this was something special. Confidence Man is a two piece dance act from Australia, and they put just about everything you’ve ever considered to be “fun” in a blender and hit the smoothie button. LCD Soundsystem is here in droves along with heavy Madchester influence via Happy Mondays and Primal Scream. Honestly, I almost didn’t put this album on my list for Stinkweeds because it feels like a treasure to keep secret. In the end, I have decided sharing is caring and that everyone needs this in their ears. Latter album tracks would DJ happily against other party forward Australian acts like Jagwar Ma and Cut Copy. This record is my secret weapon for when any party needs a bit of juice later on in the evening.

Matthew Dear – Bunny [Ghostly International]

I was introduced to Matthew Dear at a Ghostly International showcase in 2012 at Decibel Fest in Seattle. I had no idea who he was, but I was mesmerized. He mixes rock with dance and electronic music in ways that no one else has really tried. It’s hard to really explain without making him out to be some kind of electronic music demigod, but, essentially, he is (I mean, look up any profile picture, for starters – he’s beautiful – not to mention that voice). It’s been a long, long wait from his 2012 album (Beams) to this year’s (Bunny), but it was absolutely worth it. This is one of the weirdest, grooviest, most bafflingly infectious records I’ve heard in a hot minute, so infectious that my husband has actually asked I stop playing it for a little while. And the “Bad Ones” single with Tegan & Sara is a surprisingly poppy offering for anyone who might need a nudge before taking the full dive. Definitely pick this one up on vinyl, too. The multi-color splatter thing is so cool and works so well with the pink packaging.

Kali Uchis – Isolation [Virgin]

This is an album that is perfect, day in, day out. A lot of music seems to be dependent on time of day or season, but not Kali Uchis. Isolation is a breath of fresh air. I don’t remember how I was introduced to it, just that once I was I couldn’t stop playing it. The mix of reggaeton and r&b is pop magic. There really isn’t anything else to say other than “this record is magic”. I can think of no albums this year that even come close to the variety and offerings that Kali Uchis curated with Isolation. It’s just so different from everything out right now. Plus, great production from Tyler the Creator, Damon Albarn, Dave Sitek, BBNG, and Thundercat. If you want to dance, or smile, or just be in a better mood – Kali’s your girl.

Preoccupations – New Material [Secretly Canadian]

If you paid any attention to the news this year, things were just a little rough for humanity. New Material, the sophomore album of Preoccupations, was the friend I needed to help me deal this year. It follows the great post-punk tradition in its musical style but is uniquely its own in terms of voice. I’m extremely thankful for this album. It deals so starkly with some bummer topics but comes out hopeful. An album where the artists aren’t afraid to be angry, admit their struggle, and find hope – what a gift! So if that’s ever you, check this out. To me this is the band Joy Division could have been in 2018 if mental health had been an OK topic to discuss. Also, these guys absolutely shred. Shouts for being the best live performance I saw all year at Valley Bar this past spring.

Gabe Gurnsey – Physical [Phantasy]

Gabe Gurnsey’s Physical sneaks up on you. Gabe is half of the UK electronic duo Factory Floor, which, if you like anyone like LCD Soundsystem, Black Dice, Throbbing Gristle, or New Order, you should probably go check out this album and then hit the back catalog. Physical is Gabe’s first solo album. This album starts, and then doesn’t ever stop. It is an endlessly groovy impressionist landscape of hallucinogenic life, sex, and darkness. Part of that’s probably because he focuses on rhythm – coming from a drumming background, I don’t know what the other part is and that’s fine by me because no matter how many times I listen to this album I keep coming back to it and it’s better each time. How many albums can do that?

Fred “Baby” Diamond Feenstra

Third Eye Blind – Thanks for Everything (Mega Collider)

My name is Fred. I am a dog. As a dog, I like a little bit of everything, with a heaping helping of love and familiarity, and there is no record this year that spoke to me quite the same way that Third Eye Blind’s covers album Thanks For Everything did. Don’t worry – this record isn’t trying to appropriate younger, cooler, more relevant artists. For that, just look to Drake’s More Life. With Thanks For Everything, 3EB recorded some covers on the road and put them on a record for which all profits will go to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg (that’s a version of the Warhol Skull on the cover). Furthermore, they went all out on the packaging. Stephen Jenkins included a little blurb on each cover, explaining why they chose the band/song and what makes their version special. The disc itself is a really beautiful blue and black splatter on clear that soothes me when the cats next door are really being jerks. And at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to hear the following:
-Jenkins covering “Song to the Siren”, tributing the This Mortal Coil version over the Buckley version (have 3EB been goth this whole time?)
-3EB putting a Rage Against the Machine riff in a Santigold song
-3EB turning one of the starkest Queens of the Stone Age stares into the dark into a reggae-flared lighter worthy jam sesh
-3EB covering Chastity Belt, naming Julia Shapiro “the Nico of the Northwest”, and telling us everything in 2018 is a joke
If none of these win you over, you need to learn some lessons from me, Fred the dog, and take life a little less seriously.


Kenn Duncan

Wow this year flew by! I can’t believe I’m sitting here compiling my fav list already but here goes.  Once again the year brought many miles and lots of road time so my list reflects the need for good road music i must confess, but I did find a nice balance as you’ll see with some more reflective slower moving sets as well. I’d like to add the disclaimer that this is only my list at this moment in time and is always subject to change!  It was a tough year to pick just 5 (I say it every year, and I never pick just 5).  You can find my extended list on my Facebook “blog” > https://www.facebook.com/kmacduncanmms/#“ and i’d love it if you followed.  Well here it goes:

Buffalo Tom – Quiet and Peace [Schoolkids]

Guess there will always be a spot for BT on my playlists, still one of my favorite bands (lots of great 90’s memories surrounding their classics Let Me Come Over, Big Red Letter Day, Smitten and Sleepy Eyed), but it’s not all about nostalgia here as much as Quiet and Peace brings me back to those younger days. While the sound remains the core of guitar, bass and drums, lyrically, they seem to be acknowledging both the struggle and settling into our middle age rather than ignoring the fact we have all aged a bit since the mid-90s. As with past albums Bill Janovitz, incredibly underrated songwriter in this man’s opinion, remains the driving lyrical and vocal force he’s always been. There is the solid background support of bassist Chris Colbourn, who provides the signature background voice in the classic BT sound of weaving vocals together starting with the excellent kick off tune “All Be Gone”.  Colbourn steps into the vocal lead on a couple tunes as well, most notable “Roman Cars”.  I spent some solid road time (LA and back) and this became one of my two my go-to albums for the year (also see Middle Kids) as the rubber met the road, and it made the miles worth it.  As the song cycle played through again and again I found Buffalo Tom had not only made an album that will rank into my 2018 favs, but songs that bring the comforting 90’s sound of those younger days with the realization that we’ve (mostly I refer to me here) grown a bit older.

John Prine – The Tree Of Forgiveness [Oh Boy]

The first all original offering by JP in 13 years doesn’t disappoint. While maybe not his strongest ever lyrical effort, one must realize the bar is ever so high for this master. That said, there are more than enough high points to catapult this album to my 2018 list starting with my personal favorite “Summer’s End”, a moving melody that provides a nostalgic look at a lost love the way only Prine can do.  His voice, noticeably in a deeper range and more gravely, make these slower reflective tunes ache even more. Produced by David Cobb, this is mostly an acoustic offering with the signature Prine sound for sure. There are backing licks provided by his band as well as cameos by Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.  The songs on this album are short (album clocks in bout 30 minutes) but he leaves space in the tunes to let the mood do some of the talking.  While the sad pull of older songs (like one of the saddest songs in the whole world “Hello In There”) is not as prominent, JP seems to have a peacefulness about him here that gives over to noticing small things like shadows on ceilings and sitting on the porch while life happens around him. There is a great sense of the passing of time and indeed some strong feelings of being lonely here as well. Not to worry, his wit and humor still remain even in the face of the “end” with a farewell of sorts that includes the list of things he will enjoy when his time comes, on the closer “When I Get To Heaven”.  Some of my other favs on this one include “No Ordinary Blue”,  “I Have Met My Love Today”, “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” and “The Lonesome Friends Of Science”, where he proclaims “they predict the world will end most any day and if it does then that’s okay”,  well if it does it IS OK cause his legacy is set forever and gets another notch with this excellent new set.

Marie/Lepanto – Tenkiller [Big Legal Mess]

This was an early release in ’18 and remains a constant spin on my turntable and playlists.  A great collaboration between two great songwriters (this album actually lead me to discover their separate works) Will Johnson (Centro-Matic & solos) and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster of Water Liars and solo work, both have now become favorite songwriter-singers in my musical lexicon.  The name of the “band” hails from a road sign in the middle of I-55 between their hometowns.  You can defiantly hear the influence of both writers here and sometimes the album plays like a solo from one with the other guesting, however, it sounds amazingly consistent showing the alignment of the two singers’ styles.  The album starts off slowly with the haunting vocals of JPKS on “Patient, Patient Man” and the journey begins, with changes marked by instrumentation, tempo and stylistic range.   The 3rd song, “Inverness”, is a upbeat rocker with the boys supplying excellent harmonies on vocals, set against driving guitar and drums.  Perhaps my favorite tune is “Simple Scenes”, featuring hauntingly soft vocals and excellent lyrics set against a perfect melody.  While I tend to lean towards the slower softer tunes like “Famished Raven”, “Clean Gift” and the aforementioned “Simple Scenes” I find myself almost equally immersed with tunes like “High Desert”, the “Rail” and “Inverness”.  This album started off high on the list early in the year and never receded.  (Thanks for the recommendation, Lindsay)

Stephen Steinbrink – Utopia Teased [Western Vinyl]

Another Stinkweeds recommendation makes the list (thanks Dario). Rocked to the core and living in grief after the Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland CA where he was spending his days and nights hanging out with fellow artists, musicians, writers (some of which perished in the fire) and getting his “freak” on, Stephen literally locked himself in a shipping container studio, not sleeping, and wrote and recorded this gem (okay there were some breaks I’m sure).  His anger, despair, sadness and even hope comes through in the mood and lyrics of this collection.  There is a recollection of 70’s AM pop but with a modern feel to the music here, “Zappa Dream” even goes from a nice acoustic folksy feel open to a prog-rockish roll out.  I knew I was in for a treat right from track one “Bad Love”, a very cool melody with some de-tuned guitars and almost ominous-sounding synths adding a twist and taking the tune into slightly weird but wonderful territory. Steinbrink’s tenor vocals are perfectly backed from start to finish with sounds that are both innovative and familiar at the same time. Make no mistake, this set leans towards a mellow and laid-back effort which match the reflective state he must have been in after this tragedy literally pulled the floor from beneath him.  Some of my fav tracks here are the earlier mentioned two as well as “Empty Vessel”, “Maximum Sunlight” and “Mom”, but the album is a great hear from start to finish.

Middle Kids – Lost  Friends [Domino]

This Sydney trio hit my music map last year with their self-titled EP and showed great promise, so I eagerly awaited the announced full LP and I was not disappointed. Another road companion for me this year, these are great indie-rock, driving anthems, that have me wanting more as soon as the last note of each tune is finished. Hannah Joy, lead singer and songstress (a classically trained pianist and southpaw guitar player, worth mentioning) brings back her knack for catchy chorus lines and riffs on numbers like “Mistake” and “Don’t Be Hiding”. As the title suggests many of the songs here recount lost friends and relationships and navigating the insecurities and embarrassments that come with those loses. The stories are perfectly framed with HJ’s simultaneously frail and hardened vocals, both softly delivering as well as belting some excellent lyrical content, on songs like “Edge Of Town “(previously recorded on the EP as well), the opener “Bought It” and “On My Knees”. The band is one of those trios who sound much more than the sum of their parts, the guitar, bass and drums defiantly take center stage but backgrounds are painted with piano, strings, some synth and even pedal steel is heard.  They have had some criticism for playing out some cliched tunesmith techniques, anthem-ish slow downs and ramp ups, but they do it well in this man’s opinion. It’s not all hard driving rhythm, “Maryland” and the short but sweet “Hole” slow things down and allow Hannah to spread her vocal wings out a bit and she does it beautifully.  This is one of those albums that will enter my conscious unannounced and has me rushing to drop the needle on the vinyl to hear it all over again.

Also in the mix: Cowboy Junkies – All That Reckoning, Lera Lynn – Plays Well With Others, Charles Bradley – Black Velvet, Parquet Courts – Wide Awake, Lucy Dacus – Historian, William Fitzsimmons – Mission Bell, Willie Nile – Children Of Paradise, Neko Case – Hell-On and Boygenius EP.

Frank Gallardo

What a year folks! Narrowing this down to five was so hard, a lot of great music was released in 2018 and several of my all-time favorite bands, including my second favorite Echo and the Bunnymen released new material that didn’t make this list. If you love music the way I do, a lot was given to us this year, while at the same time we experienced one huge loss. Here we go, in order.

Elbow – The Best of Elbow (Deluxe Edition) [Polydor]

Yes, I am cheating here a bit because this best of set from the greatest band in the world (in my opinion) was released November 2017. However, by the time I was able to get my hands on it in the U.S. I had already submitted my 2017 picks, so here we are. The Stinkweeds staff knows full well I buy ANYTHING from Elbow and have ordered a number of import CDs from the band. This double CD contains all the essential studio material from Elbow spanning the course of seven albums since 2001. For the uninitiated, it is the perfect introduction, including “Newborn”, “Fugitive Motel”, “Station Approach”, “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver”, “Lippy Kids”, “My Sad Captains” and “Magnificent (She Says)”. What makes the best of set so essential is the inclusion of two extra tracks not released on any of the studio albums. First is the cover of a Beatles song by the name of “Golden Slumbers” for the 2017 John Lewis Christmas campaign. Second, and the track that takes this compilation next level, is a rework of one of Elbow’s songs from their most recent studio album, 2017’s Little Fictions. The original version of the last track on the album “Kindling” is good. The version that is included on The Best of Elbow, renamed “Kindling (Fickle Flame)” is a duet with John Grant who had toured with Elbow back in 2014 in the U.S. It may be one of the band’s best tracks, another epic performance. You have to get the two-disc deluxe edition of the CD to get this track, “Golden Slumbers” is on disc one. I’m telling you folks, this is essential.

Mastersystem – Dance Music [Physical Education Recordings]

I rarely, if ever, get emotionally disturbed by the death of a celebrity because they generally aren’t people I actually know. However, when Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, Owl John and Mastersystem tweeted, “Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones,” then followed that tweet with “I’m away now. Thanks,” I was really concerned. Those tweets were posted May 8, 2018; on May 10 it was confirmed his body was found at Port Edgar, between the Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing in Scotland. Now I was devastated and to be honest, still am. But let’s focus on the music now. Dance Music is the debut from Mastersystem, a supergroup of sorts with Scott’s brother Grant on drums, and the brothers Justin on guitar and James Lockey on the bass from Editors and Minor Victories respectively. Get this disc, put it in your player and turn the volume up to 11. I am still blown away by the sheer power of this album. Dance Music is garage rock at its best and it is so great to see four artists that established themselves for playing much different styles of music than what is on this album get together and simply shred. The lead track “Proper Home” running away is the song of the year with “The Enlightenment”, “Old Team” and “Bird is Bored of Flying” close behind. All nine songs, regardless of the tempo, possess unbridled fury and typical of anything Scott Hutchison helped create, possess a barrage of pop hooks.

Hearts Beat Loud – Soundtrack [Milan Records]

This was the biggest surprise for me this year. When I saw the previews for “Hearts Beat Loud” I knew I would have to check the movie out. After a night at Film Bar being emotionally moved by this story about a father who owns a record shop that he is about to lose making music with his daughter that is leaving for college at the end of the summer I bought the soundtrack first chance I got. I never heard of Keegan DeWitt before, I will be sure to pay attention now to this singer/songwriter/composer of over 20 film scores to date. This album possesses a myriad of infectious pop tunes that possess an indie edge to them. Kiersey Clemons and Nick Offerman, who star as the daughter and father in the film, lend their musical talents to the the soundtrack as well. For me a good soundtrack will possess music that makes me remember exactly when it was played during a film. All the classic eighties soundtracks possessed that characteristic. This album does as well, it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

We Were Promised Jetpacks – The More I sleep the Less I Dream [Big Scary Monsters]

WWPJ is so consistent, they have created several great discs over the years and two of them have landed in past Stinkweeds Best Of contributions from me. The Last Place You’ll Look was my #3 pick in 2010 and In the Pit of the Stomach was my #2 pick in 2011. The More I Sleep the Less I Dream was a little toned down compared to the frenetic pace of past releases but none, and I mean none of their power was sacrificed in the process. This band weaves so many hooks in their songs and have become masters in terms of balancing very quiet moments in a song with just as many ear shattering moments. The lead track “Impossible” is unbelievable, a perfect start to a great album. If you saw their stunning show at the Crescent this year consider yourself lucky, they were on fire once again.

Interpol – Marauder [Matado]

I think I have such high expectations of this band after their first two impeccable releases that it always takes me a while to “get it” when Interpol delivers a new album. Thankfully I get Marauder, an album I think is their best since 2007’s Our Love to Admire. What I love about Interpol is they continue to progress while still maintaining a lot of what made them so special during the early part of their career. Paul Banks continues to evolve as a vocalist, no longer a dead ringer for Ian Curtis from Joy Division. The guitars shimmer as brilliantly as ever and drummer Sam Fogarino remains one of the best in the business. Standout tracks include “If You Really Love Nothing” and “Number 10”.

I want to add that after Scott Hutchison passed away I obsessively went back and listened to every album I own that he was a part of and I have to say, I really overlooked 2014’s Owl John, his solo project. I strongly suggest you get it and the seventh track, “A Good Reason to Grow Old” is, in my opinion, the greatest song he created. It nearly puts me to tears every time I listen to it now. “Make Tiny Changes” folks.


Stephen Hartley

Superorganism – Superorganism [Domino]

Let’s face it, 2018 sucked. Luckily there were some great albums to help us make it through. Superorganism provided the most fun album of the year. I can’t imagine anyone listening to this album without smiling and having at least one of these earworms get stuck in their head. The Superorganism crew gave us 10 upbeat electronic pop songs with a great deadpan vocal delivery of catchy lyrics. They had everyone either wanting to be famous or happy just being a prawn.
Favorite Track: Something for Your M.I.N.D.
RIYL: The Blow, Avalanches, Gorillaz, Moloko

His Name is Alive – Black Wings [Silver Mountain]

If you are looking for variety in your top picks, look no further than His Name Is Alive’s Black Wings. This album has it all: a capella songs about super colliders, amazing guitar work, angelic vocal arrangements, a reworked ghost song, a beautiful France Gall cover, fuzz, moog, and acoustic demos, “Greensleeves,” and that song “After Greensleeves.” Originally a bonus CDr with the deluxe version of the awesome 2016 Patterns of Light album, this year it got a proper vinyl release. Somehow this collection of 30 or so tracks holds together as an album, while fitting in with the other 100 eclectic releases from the HNIA catalog.
Favorite Track: Silver Arc Curving
RIYL: 1990s HNIA, 2000s HNIA, 2010s HNIA. If you don’t like HNIA, we probably can’t be friends.

Gorillaz – The Now Now (Warner Brothers)

After last year’s great Humanz, with tons of guests and a deluxe edition with 26 songs, Gorillaz went in a different direction with The Now Now. The cartoon band limited the guests to a couple of songs and delivered a more cohesive 11 track album of laid back electronic pop with a little bit of a boogie vibe. It’s hard to come up with better guests than George Benson and Snoop Dogg, but they aren’t the focus this time. The Now Now feels like a mix of the best of Plastic Beach and Damon Albarn’s solo album, and ends up as one of the best Gorillaz records. Be sure to check out the Superorganism video remix of “Humility”. It was one of the best things I saw this year.
Favorite Track: Fire Flies
RIYL: Any other Damon Albarn project, Daft Punk, Georgio Moroder

Prince – Piano and Microphone 1983 (Warner Brothers)

This seemed like an unusual choice for the first posthumous release of new Prince material. Instead of mining the vault for potential hits, they went with an intimate look into the artistic process. With just his piano and a microphone, Prince works out several songs, including a few of his hits, some great covers, and the beautiful, previously unreleased “Why the Butterflies.” This record isn’t for the casual listener, but for hardcore Prince fans like me, it is a gem.
Favorite Track: Why the Butterflies
RIYL: Obscure Prince songs, music history

Rhye – Blood (Loma Vista)

Rhye singer Mike Milosh might have the best voice in alternative R&B. Blood is a silky smooth soul record that pairs the perfect mix of funky guitars and baselines with that amazing voice. When listening to Blood, you might think, “Wow! This new Sade record is great!” Some might find it too derivative, but I love having more music that sound like that. Be sure to check out the Blood remixes, too. Some are even better than the originals.
Favorite Track: Phoenix
RIYL: Sade, How to Dress Well, slow jams

Korina Birosh

I’m not sure what’s in the water in Scotland (aside from making your hair feel good) but this year has been a great year for Scottish music. My 2018 Top 5 (Scottish* edition).

Mastersystem – Dance Music [Physical Education Recordings]

What happens when a “supergroup” (cringe) of brothers makes a record reminiscent of some of their favorite music growing up? The far-too-short, loud and fuzzy masterpiece, Dance Music, that’s what. The side-project of brothers Scott and Grant Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit) along with Justin and James Lockey (Editors and Minor Victories, respectively) is a scant 9 tracks, most hovering around the three minute mark. Proper Home opens the album beautifully, Peaks & Troughs & Graves sings to my soul, Old Team is an anthem and Bird is Bored Of Flying is a perfect closer, heart breaking as it is. My most loved track is the shortest on the album, The Enlightenment. Justin referred to it as “ultra fast fucker” when he passed it off to Scott and Grant and that it is (watch your speed if you’re listenin’ & drivin’). And bonus – for just under 3 minutes, Grant’s drumming will beat your heart for you. The Hutchison and Lockey boys have made the record that has literally rocked the second half of my year. Please listen to this loudly. And frequently.

*I’m aware Mastersystem is only half Scottish but that’s enough for this list!

We Were Promised Jetpacks – The More I Sleep The Less I Dream [Big Scary Monsters]

This summer, I took a leisurely train from sweltering London to Glasgow. As the parched English hills broke way to the green mountains of Scotland, We Were Promised Jetpacks were in my ears. Unfortunately, The More I Sleep The Less I Dream had yet to be released but from that day in Glasgow on, they have been a constant companion. Their newest release is an absolute belter and it’s easily my favorite to listen to very loudly when driving. Their perfect opening track, “Impossible”, builds and swims and circles. In fact, it’s so perfect, they were pulling the crowd in with it as the opening song at their live shows on their recent tour. “Hanging In” is the most surprising – a bit of an easy-going roller coaster until about three-quarters the way in – at that point I’m shouting, “Don’t rush me, don’t rush me, don’t rush me, don’t rush me, don’t rush!” along with Adam Thompson.  “Repeating Patterns” is a frenetic joy that effortlessly leads into the title (and closing) track, “The More I Sleep The Less I Dream”. It’s melancholic and utterly powerful, ending with Adam’s falsetto refrain, “Oh, my word/I’m nothing but a curse.” Pin-drop. MORE, PLEASE. I was blown away this October that they somehow make these stellar beauties sound even better live. Is it possible to be addicted to seeing a band live? We Were Promised Jetpacks has me almost convinced that it’s possible. Watch out next tour, guys. You may have an uninvited companion at all your shows.

 

Kathryn Joseph – From When I Wake the Want Is [Rock Action Records]

I came to know Kathryn Joseph only recently and sadly, not from the 2015 Scottish Album of the Year winner, Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled. Instead, it was a project with James Graham (The Twilight Sad) and Marcus Mackay – Out Lines Conflats. Kathryn’s voice has haunted me since. From When I Wake the Want Is is the warm space in an unsettling, cold room. I’m absolutely in love with the fragility of Kathryn’s voice and the fullness of the music behind it. Tell My Lover is the most powerful track on this stunning album. Take some time with this one – headphones on, eyes closed.

Michael Timmons – Bone Coloured [Gargleblast Records]

Bone Coloured is a late “top 5” entry for me – a December surprise (despite being released in February). Shame on me for waiting so long to give Michael Timmons’ debut album a listen. Quiet and spare, Michael’s songs are pure beauty. Bone Coloured leaves my head swimming and steals my breath. I’m especially drawn to Hold On Sea and Fall Back. I know Michael has jokingly referred to his music as miserable and I’m not sure what it says about me (and my love life), but I could fall in love to this album.

Mogwai – KIN [Rock Action Records/Temporary Residence Limited]

 I’m not generally a soundtrack person but I am a huge Mogwai fan. And I’ve loved every soundtrack they’ve done. Their first for a feature film, KIN, stands alone as an album (full disclosure – I haven’t seen KIN) but it still feels like a soundtrack, if that makes sense. Like Mogwai songs are short on words, words fail me when trying to discuss one of my favorite bands of all time. Just…put your headphones on, put on KIN, and let it take you places.

Eddie Garcia:

Pinkshinyultrablast – Miserable Miracles [Shelflife Records]

Saint Petersburg, Russia pedal pushers Pinkshinyultrablast have been rocking my collection since their initial EP Happy Songs for Happy Zombies. Perfect dream pop bits layered on top of sublime fuzz that has the power to melt your face off. As the band has made its way to their third album, Miserable Miracles, pedal boards have been pushed aside in favor of arpeggiated synths that resemble Stereolab playing on the loudspeaker of an after hours arcade. A dreamsicle for your senses.

Kristin Hersh – Possible Dust Clouds [Fire Records]

For me, listening to Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave and the solo outings of Kristin Hersh are like an old friend of mine who I can reminisce with and enjoy new stories of their life. A few years may pass and you decide to meet up and in walks your friend with a new haircut and a new wardrobe. They are stunning and untouchable. Once I pressed play on this record, all the old stories of 4AD past resurfaced with new stories that had me on the edge of my seat. Another round for me and my friend…Kristin’s back and she is on fire!

Henry Peretz

Echo Ladies – Pink Noise [Sonic Cathedral]

Echo Ladies sound like they’ve been making music together forever. The truth is that this is a young band with only three releases, a 07”, a 10”, and a 12”. Pink Noise is their full length record and though it’s only about 30 minutes, it’s possibly the best thirty minutes of music that was released this year. Swedish shoegazers, their music is equal parts wall of sound (“Almost Happy” & “Bedroom”) and incredibly fragile (“Waiting for a Sign”). I’ve been told it’s pretty hard to find now but if you do manage to track down a copy pick it up and take it home!

Boygenius – S/T [Matador]

(Boygenius is Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus). I’m a huge fan of harmony. From Trio with Linda Rondstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris to case/lang/veirs, there’s something empowering and humbling about these “supergroups”. This year saw the formation of a new supergroup, boygenius featuring Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. Each of these artists, individually, are outstanding and are contributing great things to the music community. But together, boygenius have put out a perfect EP, it’s filled with a great balance of too big thoughts and great friends to help laugh those thoughts into manageable realities. Stand out tracks include: “Me & My Dog”, “Ketchum, ID”, and “Salt in the Wound”.

Eddie & Henry

Mitski – Be The Cowboy [Dead Oceans]

This may be our sleeper album of 2018. While road-tripping to Los Angeles in July, “Nobody” was played on Sirius XMU and we were floored by the song. We pre-ordered Be The Cowboy when we got back home. When the record hit our turntable, senses were awakened by passionate, angular songs that pull you close and don’t let go. Mitski comes full circle on this effort with sounds that engulf you and stories that touch you. For best results, see her live.


Larry Cummings

Top 5 Albums of the 2018

(in no particular order)

Caronlina Rose – Loner [New West Records]

The hard thing about pulling a sarcasm in song writing is, it’s very hard for the audience to know when you are being serious and when you are being sarcastic. Unless you are Caroline Rose, then you have an oddly effective way of being clearly and alternately sarcastic and sincere in song. The lyrics are hysterical without being precious. The songs are a uniquely fun mix of high energy pop, electronic and rock.

Frank Turner – Be More Kind [Polydor]

In contrast to Caroline Rose, it’s very easy to be stridently earnest, it used to be much more common in rock music to be so. Frank has always had relevant lyrics and is a master at creating sing-along songs, but this album is less anthemic/more introspective. This album is an oddly optimistic record for Mr. Turner and it’s very timely. I particularly love the title track as it’s something I try to do. My favorite lyric on the album is on the track “Little Changes”, “We spend our energy getting angry instead of being kinder.” Yes, Frank, yes we do, thanks for this amazing album.

For #3 I had to pick two, one from the beginning of the year and one from the end. Don’t judge me.

Ron Gallo – Stardust Birthday Party [New West Records]

I picked this up on a recommendation from Lindsay and it’s absolutely fantastic. The track “Love Supreme (Work Together)” is my new theme song. It has an oddly Talking Heads feel to it. Not that the whole album sounds like this, but there’s not a bad track on this album! 3b: Camp Cope – How to Socialize & Make Friends (Poison City Records.)This album was on regular rotation for me earlier this year. It’s yet another Australian band (there have been a strangely high number of Aussie bands in my favorites the last three years). It’s a pretty fierce pop/rock record that really demands your attention. There’s something vulnerable and insistent about their sound that I really enjoy. The track Sagan-India is a favorite.

Cut Worms – Hollow Ground [Drift Records]

This album sounds like what it would sound like if the Byrds and the Beatles had a love child. It’s an amazing sound and an incredibly strong collection of songs. I won’t say much more because it’s an album that is very hard to describe but is very easy to enjoy. Everyone I’ve played this for has loved this one, you should get it. I also deeply regret missing their Stinkweeds In-Store performance this summer.

Lucy Dacus – Historian [Matador]

I don’t know what they are putting in the water in Richmond, Virginia but whatever it is, it’s working. Apparently Lucy Dacus got a lot of kudos for her first album, which I have yet to hear. This album is very personal and her voice and song writing are so accessible. She reaches out and grabs you right from the first track all the way through to the end. I think the song that really hits me every time I hear it is “The Shell”, especially the first line of the chorus: You don’t wanna be a creator. Doesn’t mean you’ve got nothing to say. Put down the pen, don’t let it force your hand.

Honorable Mentions:
Kyle Craft – Full Circle Nightmare (Sub Pop)
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel (Milk!)

 


Jon Utter

Lithics – Mating Surfaces [Kill Rock Stars]

I first heard Lithics live, last year at a House show with Soft Shoulder in Flagstaff. Their performance was a force of jutting rhythms and angular guitar patterns — very experimental, reminiscent to me of classic post/art rock. This is the band’s second full length record, and their first on Kill Rock Stars. I listen through it at least once a week.

 

Low – double negative [Sub Pop]

I’m new to Low’s catalog of music, and Double Negative was my gateway. Instant fan! The arrangements on Double Negative are subversive, yet controlled and moving. I look forward to seeing their live interpretations of Double Negative next year at the Valley Bar.

Xylouris white – Mother [Bella Union]

Xylouris White are a duo consisting of Greek singer and lauto player George Xylouris and drummer Jim White (dirty three, cat power). This album is so full of energy, it’s a great bit of fun to listen through.

 

 

Luluc – Sculpter [Sub Pop]

The songs on Sculptor go a little deeper than on past Luluc records, and the arrangements feature unique embellishments delivered by Aaron Dessner (The National), Jim White (Dirty Three, Xylouris White), and J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr). The duo’s comforting harmonies paired with White’s percussion throughout the album kept me hooked.

 

Michael Nau and the Mighty Thread – S/T [Relearn To Boogie]

Widely known as the frontman for Cotton Jones and Page France, Michael Nau has put out some super laidback Records under his own name in recent years. This mighty thread record has served as background music for all occasions at home and work – definitely a favorite of mine this year.

 

Additional:

Yo la tengo – there is a riot

Beak – >>>

Ryley walker – deafman glance

Maher shalal Hash Baz and Little wings – Share

Gruff Rhys – babelsberg

Dean wareham vs cheval sombre –

 

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