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18 of ’18: The Best Albums of the Year

When the headline says Best of the Year, the people who click over to the list have a few titles in mind they’re expecting to see because those same titles were in the previous list with that headline and the list before that one (and so on and so forth). A lot of that has to do with one simple, depressing fact: the PR those artists and labels can afford. To counteract that, a different approach was taken in compiling these selections. Any record that topped more than one of those lists outright (apologies, Mitski) was taken out of consideration for this list.

Every album that appeared in more than half of the lists I personally witnessed were taken out of consideration (a list that included Hop Along, The Beths, Courtney Barnett, Car Seat Headrest, Low, Saba, Snail Mail, Haley Heynderickx, and a handful of others). All of these lists share one unifying trait: they’re subjective. All of the records listed resonated with individual writers or made ripples among shared staff, striking at different nerves. All of the albums on this list made a lasting impression and will have at least one listener coming back years down the line. Buy these albums, support great music, scroll down, read, and hit play on the best albums of 2018.

Gabby’s World – Beast On Beast

No matter what moniker they’ve operated under, the music being produced by the band now known as Gabby’s World has been remarkable. In 2015, the group was responsible for O.K., the record that would ultimately top that year’s Album of the Year list. They’ve released a handful of music since then and experienced a stylistic shift as they’ve evolved, something Gabrielle Smith’s project wields to their advantage on Beast On Beast.

A more melancholic and subdued tone permeates through the record, while still providing a handful of emotionally cathartic moments. From the tender, bombastic opener through to the record’s hazy closer, Gabby’s World casts a spell that’s hard to break. Warmth and empathy inform so much of the band’s work that every song feels like a comfort, something familiar to sink into and disappear. It’s a trait that’s always been true of Gabby’s World but never has it been more present than on the abundantly graceful Beast On Beast.

Slow Mass – Watch On

Slow Mass, a band that’s gradually been improving for some time, took a significant step forward with the genre-resistant Watch On. So many subsets of rock and punk intersect throughout the record, morphing from classic emo to heady math-rock to wiry post-punk within seconds. What’s more surprising than the band somehow successfully integrating this further into their identity is the sense of cohesion that unites these passages.

Every song Watch On offers up contains a different highlight, ably demonstrating the band’s breadth of talent. A lot of its astonishing and none of its ever uninspiring or tepid. By committing to not staying in the same place, Slow Mass winds up with the most vital work of a promising career. Watch On takes every twist and turn on a path to greatness, which makes the trip as satisfying as the promise of a memorable destination.

Saintseneca – Pillar of Na

Over their past several records, Saintseneca have more than proved their adeptness at creating records that feel complete. The band hasn’t made an errant step throughout a run that’s seen their audience continuously balloon. Pillar of Na, the band’s latest, presented a unique challenge in the departure of Maryn Jones (also of All Dogs and Yowler), who suffused the band’s earlier works with a considerable depth of grace. Caeleigh Featherstone takes up Jones’ mantle and the band doesn’t miss a beat.

Pillar of Na also sees Saintseneca, who have long been praised for their Appalachian folk roots, drift further East and embrace a more traditionally Indian influence. “Circle Hymn” sets the record’s tone and the melody of the song paces the record, providing a gorgeous motif. Beautifully sequenced, incredibly rich, and ridiculously transfixing, Pillar of Na proves itself worthy of Saintseneca’s discography, which remains one of today’s finest.

illuminati hotties – Kiss Yr Friends

A band that picked up a little steam and took off sprinting, illuminati hotties showed the world what they’re capable of producing with Kiss Yr Friends. Opening with a tenderness that’s ingrained into their music before forging a much more explosive path, Kiss Yr Friends demonstrated the band’s enviable range and seemingly boundless songwriting talent.

It doesn’t matter what style illuminati hotties tries to take on, they succeed with every attempt, which is a trait that could help them cultivate an ambition that never stops expanding. A record full of self-reflection, pain, hope, and an elevated understanding, Kiss Yr Friends sees illuminati hotties making a considerable mark. Easily one of the more promising emergent acts of 2018, they’re already a powerhouse. Kiss Yr Friends is all the evidence anyone should need.

Anna Burch – Quit the Curse

Towards the end of 2017, Anna Burch teased Quit the Curse with a few tracks and videos that made a sizable impression and upped the levels of anticipation for its release. Those high expectations were both warranted and met as Burch released a record that carried all the way through 2018 without losing an ounce of its power. Sunshine-speckled songs that combined pop, surf, doo-wop, and Americana were granted a lacerating wit and plenty of punk bite.

Quit the Curse could easily be confused for a singles record by someone that didn’t know better but the songs on the record are tethered to an introspective narrative that acts as a welcoming as much as a warning. “Asking 4 A Friend”, “2 Cool 2 Care”, the title track, and every other song on this gem of a record find ways to dig into the listener’s consciousness, taking up residence and making themselves a comfortable home. It’s hard to think anyone will mind.

Ovlov – TRU

Steve Hartlett had one hell of a year, releasing two of 2018’s best records in Stove‘s ‘s Favorite Friend and the reborn Ovlov‘s TRU. The latter came as one of the most welcome surprises of the year, as questions of whether Ovlov had retired still abounded. TRU sets the record straight from the opening seconds of album opener “Baby Alligator”, which finds the band’s trademark characteristics fully intact.

Aggressive and melancholic, clear and hazy, Hartlett’s made a career out of thriving in improbable dichotomies, which is something TRU wisely brings to the forefront. A record that surges as much as it soothes, TRU also finds time to grapple with serious questions underneath all the noise (and, as always, there’s plenty of noise). Existential quandaries pitched at the highest volume continue to populate Hartlett’s writing as the band returns to making a home out of searching for meaning.

Advance Base – Animal Companionship

Ovlov weren’t the only project making an unpredictable return in 2018, as Owen Ashworth settled back into Advance Base to release an astonishingly gripping collection of new material. Animal Companionship ranks along the best works of Ashworth’s illustrious career. The record may actually benefit from Ashworth’s sabbatical from the project as Animal Companionship is imbued with the kind of gravity that can only be earned with age and experience.

Quiet devastation courses through Animal Companionship, which finds Ashworth reflecting on everything from failed relationships that were extended solely because of bonds forged with an erstwhile partner’s animals to the constraints of mortality and how to productively fill the arbitrary voids that are created by the harsh reality of our own impermanence. Reflexive, tranquil, and propped up by an extraordinary sense of empathetic warmth, Animal Companionship proves to be meaningful company all its own.

Lonely Parade – The Pits

One of 2018’s most exhilarating — and overlooked — records came from Lonely Parade, who provided the BUZZ (one of the most consistently great punk labels) roster with yet another shot of adrenaline. Wiry post-punk, basement pop, and slacker punk exist in harmony on The Pits, which is a vibrant and insistent triumph from a breakout act that made their abundant tenacity clear from the outset.

Every single track on The Pits bucks and bristles, ready to charge forward at any second. Clever hooks dominate the album, both vocally and instrumentally, as Lonely Parade sculpt a memorable, unmistakable identity throughout the course of The Pits. Romantic ennui, self-loathing, self-celebration, and unbridled frustration careen recklessly through The Pits‘ narratives, providing an unsparing look at modern life for young adults. A minor masterpiece that’s not afraid to get scrappy.

Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar

Gouge Away have been going increasingly hard for a few years now and that relentless has birthed Gouge Away, the post-hardcore quartet’s most vicious and complete work of a formidable career. The band expands their ambitions on Burnt Sugar to dazzling effect, showing an increasing willingness to lean into pop-oriented melodies and even to slow way down, which they do for the breathtaking “Ghost“.

Every second of Burnt Sugar provides the sense of being swept up in a hurricane. The stakes are literally life and death. Gouge Away commits to the former while fully acknowledging the latter, allowing that inevitable promise to inform their willingness to fight. Thrash, metal, and noise all provide inflections as Burnt Sugar roars along towards its ultimate destination, combining in inspired ways to provide Gouge Away with a startling new career high.

Young Jesus – The Whole Thing Is Just There

In 2011, Young Jesus were still operating out of Chicago and had just released Home, which marked a significant step forward for the band and remains one of that year’s best records. Since Home‘s release, the band has taken several more leaps forward, creating a momentum that’s taken them from a fledgling emergent act to something more akin to an indifferent meteor. The Whole Thing Is Just There the band’s first record of new material for Saddle Creek sees them continuing to hurtle through an empty oblivion, coasting on a frantic trajectory while trying to make sense of their surroundings.

Confines and restraints that dictated much of their previous work have been completely discarded in favor of the free-noise improvisation the group’s been honing in their live shows for years. Songs shift and morph at will, largely ignoring traditional structures. “Deterritory” goes from soothing ambient work to vicious post-hardcore in The Whole Thing Is Just There‘s astonishing opening track while the towering closer, “Gulf”, exceeds 20 minutes in length. Somehow, all of this seems grounded, attached to something genuine and unmistakably human. An extraordinary listen from one of this decade’s best bands.

Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning

Following the milder Life Without Sound, Cloud Nothings wanted to make it excessively clear they wouldn’t be following the trend of rock-oriented artists taking an exceedingly pop-minded plunge. “On An Edge”, Last Building Burning‘s fiery opener, ranks among the bleakest and most punishing work the band’s committed to date. It sets a tone that the rest of the Randall Dunn-produced record lives up to and possibly exceeds.

In addition to the renewed emphasis on tonal and overall harshness, the band lets drummer Jayson Gerycz remind everyone he may be one of the single most valuable additions any band’s had this decade. Gerycz turns in a masterpiece performance behind the kit as Last Building Burning takes Cloud Nothings to new heights on the back of both excessive determination, subtle antagonism, and the most emotionally moving narratives bandleader Dylan Baldi’s ever penned, with several gut-punches centered around being a largely passive bystander forced to repeat the same pleas while someone close is enduring an abusive relationship and refusing to navigate their way out.

Brutal and desperate, Last Building Burning is full of songs that evoke the record’s title. While that title may focus on just one fiery structure, it’s not hard to imagine an entire metropolitan skyline being razed. Cloud Nothings finds a way throughout Last Building Burning to acknowledge the flames, the ashes, and the pain that led to that level of demolition. Unforgiving and deeply personal, Last Building Burning may just be the ceaselessly impressive band’s masterpiece.

Big Ups – Two Parts Together

Few bands get to go out on career highs, at the apex of their creative talent, and with an ascendant group of followers. Big Ups made sure they were one of those few with the volatile, challenging, and inspired Two Parts Together. What will likely stand as the band’s final release, Two Parts Together acts as a total culmination of what one of the best hardcore-adjacent acts has put together over the course of an acclaimed career that sparked a considerable amount of admiration among their peers.

Two Parts Together may be the first Big Ups record to match the band’s transcendent live show, keeping the listener entranced as it takes one jack-knife turn after the other at breakneck speed with deadly precision. More than just a testament to the band’s unreal command of dynamics, Two Parts Together offers an unfiltered look into the band’s identity through both composition and narrative. Vocalist Joe Galaragga leans into a series of complex topics with the a fearlessness that’s characteristic of the band, anchoring the most ambitious — and loosely experimental — music of Big Ups’ discography with enough tenacity and heart to make Two Parts Together an essential listen.

Fog Lake – captain

Fog Lake‘s been turning heads for some time now, quietly perfecting a warm strain of tender, empathetic ambient pop. Aaron Powell’s project attains a rare beauty on captain, the crown jewel of an incredibly rich discography. Every track exudes patience and attentiveness, layering ambient noise, piano, vocals, and traditional rock instrumentation to conjure up a feeling that resides somewhere between introspection and self-actualization.

captain is yet another emotionally shattering work from Powell, who’s seemingly building a career out of soundtracking personal solitude while dreaming up ways to make sure company’s welcome. An absorbing, immersive listen, captain navigates increasingly murky waters with both grace and clarity, accepting that not every question will have an answer and that every journey becomes infinitely more rewarding once its difficulties have been confronted and either accepted, resolved, or ingrained. A mesmerizing record that ensures Powell’s spot among today’s pantheon of truly great songwriters.

Evening Standards – Evening Standards

Evening Standards‘ self-titled debut comes packed with a pedigree. Forged out of the ashes of PURPLE 7 and a handful of great basement pop acts before that, anything less than remarkable would’ve been surprising but the heights Evening Standards manages to reach are still surprising. Every second of the band’s debut feels incredibly assured, on every front. The members of Evening Standards have all seemingly cultivated their own individual identities as musicians and managed to find a way to congeal them into something exhilarating.

Front to back, Evening Standards is comprised of intentionally loose basement pop that’s a little tongue-in-cheek on the surface but underscored by surprising depth. “Lil Green Man” highlights this dynamic beautifully, by taking a narrative centered on alien visitation and expounding the lark to humbling existential queries. The hooks are memorable and they find ways to dig deep, refusing to let go once they’ve taken hold. A playful romp that exponentially rewards investment, Evening Standards carves out a place for itself as one of basement pop’s high watermarks.

Long Neck – Will This Do?

On Long Neck‘s first record after Lily Mastrodimos expanded the project to be a full band, they waste no time in illustrating the benefits of that decision. On the first half of Will This Do? the band delivers a newfound lightheartedness to the project, offering up a series of summery tracks that ably demonstrate their strength as a collective. Even in those warmer moments, though, Mastrodimos holds true to the more autumnal narratives that characterized the extraordinary work that had comprised Long Neck’s solo era. Towards the halfway mark, the dam starts cracking and the floodgates open for the final stretch.

While Will This Do? boasted some of the most enjoyable — and endlessly replayable — tracks of 2018 in its opening stretch, the record hits a point-of-no-return with the unexpectedly dark “Ashes” and kicks off what may stand as the strongest final act of 2018. It’s over this jaw-dropping set of songs that Mastrodimos drops any pretenses regarding personal struggle and familial loss and favors a brutal, unforgiving directness that strips away the artifice and forces the listener to grapple with both losing and failing.

Those four songs, “Ashes”, “Hive Collapse”, “Milky Way“, and “10,000 Year Old Woman” are the best of Mastrodimos’ burgeoning career and the cumulative impact they leave is unforgettable. While “Matriarch” served as a gorgeous early peak and smart reprieve in the record’s early raucousness, the total reckoning of its closing run manages to tip Will This Do? into an overwhelmingly immersive experience. At the center of the pain evidenced in those closing narratives is a drive to not just survive but celebrate that survival, elevating a memorably great record to something far more transcendent.

Doe – Grow Into It

Some Things Last Longer Than You vaulted Doe‘s status up several levels back in 2016, securing the trio as one of the best basement pop acts making music. This site gave that record Album of the Year honors alongside an exceedingly strong committee. The band toured relentlessly on the back of that record and finally unveiled Grow Into It in 2018’s final quarter, surpassing the anticipation that they’d tirelessly built on the back of their explosive live show and an absurdly strong lineup of touring partners.

Grow Into It is everything anyone can hope for from a follow-up to a breakout album: the retention of identity, a willingness to expand boundaries, a fearlessness in decision-making, strong production, and a tenacious commitment. Brimming with hard-won confidence, the band attacks Grow Into It with the fervor of someone caught up in a fight to survive. Put your back into it/Until you can’t undo it goes a particularly memorable couplet, ostensibly underlining the band’s modus operandi.

A record that seems to accelerate progressively more as it races towards its jaw-dropping closer, Grow Into It finds Doe pouring their heart into their craft. The band wears a number of ’90s influences on their sleeve, churning out slacker pop that recalls that era’s best works. Wildly enjoyable at every step, even as it fixates on harsh issues connected to everything from a tumultuous political landscape to reflections on widely-held and extremely dispiriting views on autonomy, Grow Into It is a record that’s not afraid to speak as loudly as Doe plays. An astounding work from one of our best young bands.

Half Waif – Lavender

Watching my grandmother walk in her garden
She’s lost her hearing, does not notice the cardinal
I hold fast to the hours before the obvious parting

Those lines make up the second verse to appear on Half Waif‘s breathtaking Lavender, a monumental step forward for Nandi Plunkett’s project and an unforgettable artistic statement. A record seeped in the memory of Plunkett’s recently departed grandmother, Lavender soothes and haunts in equal measure. Informed by lost connections and a life dedicated to the road, Lavender takes the listener and actively places them in the passenger’s seat of an extended tour-driven narrative. Immensely moving and intrinsically connected to something spiritual, Plunkett navigates a series of burning questions and hard realizations with an unflappable grace.

Piercing insight is offered with reassuring tenderness throughout Lavender. Cities are yearned for, memories are tightly embraced, and lasting bonds are valued above all else. There’s a quiet desperation that carries throughout the record, the one constant as all the extra scenery flies by the window. In many ways, Lavender plays like a journal chronicling Plunkett’s untethering, providing a startling glimpse into the harsh realities of life on the road. Plunkett’s incisive narration keying in on the moments where the ground seems to separate, creating the sensation of aimless drifting.

Where Lavender separates itself from the many, many records that have tried to anchor their narratives with a similar framing is in Plunkett’s tacit acceptance of the loneliness that accompanies the drifting- any company is better than none. The record also never overstates its realistically tragic circumstances, relying on mundane moments to paint a much more engrossing portrait that allows it to land that much harder. Every facet of Lavender feels considered, allowing the record to be pitched at different velocities of tumult: “Back In Brooklyn” is a song in the key of the MTA while “Leveler” boasts an opening that intentionally isolates Plunkett’s voice into a hushed world of its own.

Forever in transit and full of curious glances outward, Lavender goes far beyond just being an extended meditation on what life reverts to when home becomes the hum of the road and into a towering statement about the nature of journeying. A record that’s sharply aware that there’s beauty to behold just beyond the window, even when the static trappings feel overbearing, Lavender is a work that drives into what makes life worth living. As hard as the tough moments wind up being, there’s a power to those experiences that, when given enough distance, become affirming.

Tough, tender, unforgiving, accepting, shattering, and hopeful, Lavender is a pointed presentation of contradictions, all firmly held in place by Plunkett’s reality. A story that’s been lived countless times finds a new level of poignancy on Lavender, which stands with a determined resilience as one of the most emotionally taxing — and rewarding — listens of 2018. For all of the silent pain that separation can bring, there’s an undercurrent of memory to inform that pain. At the core of Lavender, there’s a wellspring of love and by the record’s murky culmination, there’s a resigned acknowledgement of what that love will bring.

In those final moments, Lavender stops running away from the questions it’s been asking since its opening salvo and reveals a burdened truth: it knew the answer. It’s always known. To leave is to strengthen the effect of love. Whether the departure arrives at the airport or culminates with a wake, there’s a magnified sense of affection, which makes the parting infinitely harder. When that divide is extended, it can become harder still. What matters is that we allow ourselves to admit and how we navigate, how we cope, and how we understand.

The last twist of Plunkett’s narrative-driven knife arrives with so much certainty, after a sea of avoidance, that the effect is staggering. “Ocean Scope” delivers that knockout blow with courage, allowing Plunkett and the listener time to sit, to reflect, to accept, and to heal.

I don’t wanna know this
I don’t wanna know how this ends
In the grand scope of things
I know

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance

IDLES made a deep, lasting impression in 2017 with Brutalism, a pointed, scuzz-fueled blast of punk shrapnel. Pop culture was toyed with, progressive stances were belted out like war cries, and there was an abundance of empathy at its heart. All of its disdain was directed at people and policies that knowingly and maliciously take advantage of others, allowing Brutalism a sincere bent to its frustration. Just about every song on that record suggested the band could be fully capable of producing a masterpiece. No one could have predicted it’d come this soon.

A little over a year had elapsed before IDLES pulled back the curtains on Joy As An Act of Resistance a snarling behemoth that took everything that made Brutalism so engaging and multiplied them exponentially. “Colossus”, the first track to be released in advance of Joy As An Act of Resistance and the album opener, makes the band’s transformation plain. The rhythm section that provided Brutalism with quite a bit of its power finds new strength in restraint and focus, following a single chord and rim shot pattern through to a punishing, tribal-like section.

Vocalist Joe Talbot seems to find new life in this mode of attack, elevating his narrative work with unwavering commitment. The pop culture references are more prominent, the target range is significantly wider, and there’s an emotional crux to the lyrics that manages to cut through the wry humor and ground the material in something both personal and poignant. Virtually all of that’s packed into “Colossus”, which ultimately serves as both the catalyst for Joy As An Act of Resistance‘s tone and as a slight reintroduction to IDLES as a whole.

As a cohesive unit, the version of IDLES presented to us on their sophomore effort is tighter, more aggressive, and more exhaustively complete. “Colossus”, “Danny Nedelko“, “GREAT“, and “Samaritans” all suggested the band was operating at a higher level but Joy As An Act of Resistance finds them exceeding even the unlikeliest of high expectations. What ensues after “Colossus” flips a switch and jumps from foreboding tension to an all-out basement punk blitz is the purest distillation of political, social, and emotional commentary that any record in 2018 had to offer.

There’s a blunt honesty to Joy As An Act of Resistance that characterized the best songs of its preceding act but is sustained and felt through even the wryest pop culture jab. The breadth of what Talbot’s willing to tackle here is astonishing, running from the lineage and permeation of toxic masculinity to the shockingly recent stillbirth the vocalist endured with his wife. Loss is a palpable recurrent theme on Joy As An Act of Resistance but it’s never treated as a threat but viewed as further ammunition for a rallying cry against the prevailing evils of our world.

The band’s willingness to confront those pervasive hardships, on both personal and societal levels, and ground them in understatement is one of the major distinctions that separates the songs on Joy As An Act of Resistance from other acts attempting similar narratives. IDLES understand and are extraordinarily adept at reasonably contextualizing the institution instead of fixating on the object; the record’s never ham-fisted or grossly overwrought. In many ways, Joy As An Act of Resistance seems to be a kindred spirit of The Wire: both works understand the value in examining the parts that make up the sum, like how “Danny Nedelko” humanizes immigration by using a good friend — and a stand-up human — as an explicit framework to combat the dispiriting resurrection of nationalist thought.

Which is why when the band finally does scale back down to address something that’s deeply personal, the effect is shattering. “June” arrives at the album’s center and gives Talbot space to publicly grieve over the previously-mentioned stillbirth. The weight of what the vocalist is feeling is on full display, the band slowing the tempo down to a drudge-like march and offers up the record’s starkest, bleakest composition while Talbot opines Baby shoes, for sale, never worn, supplementing his own tragedy with literary history (one of many, many glancing references that supplement the narrative intent).

“Samaritans”, the most explosive song on Joy As An Act of Resistance and this publication’s Song of the Year pick, finds itself sequenced perfectly following the overwhelming despair of “June”. In addition to providing a bridge back to the record’s larger picture, “Samaritans” also ushers in a run of high-energy, immediate tracks that give more weight to Joy As An Act of Resistance‘s first act. “Samaritans”, “Television”, and “GREAT” are the ladder out of the grave that “June” had lovingly dug, ensuring the listener has an expanded understanding of the stakes evident throughout the record.

“GREAT” even provides the most concise clarification of the band’s thesis in its closing lines: we’re all in this together. As always, IDLES preach the value of a healthy community but here that reminder underscores a larger point: empathy is so essential because when it’s lost is when commitment to needless divisions deepens and threatens the foundation of a successful civilization. It’s a trait that’s essential to companionship, to joy, and to contentment. Nothing’s more infuriating than those who seek to devalue the virtues of empathy because beyond being recklessly selfish, it’s also wildly misguided as its a tactic that threatens the foundation of support and without support, nothing survives.

Joy As An Act of Resistance is a record that stares down that level of oblivious stupidity with a scorn that can border on the contempt but it’s also a work that’s smart enough to know those kind of views and the policies that get built around them don’t just suddenly materialize. IDLES understand the deliberately paced history of those movements and know to dismantle them they’ll need to resist by not caving into pure frustration but to offer joy. Even in the extraordinarily destructive final minute, Joy As An Act of Resistance doesn’t give off the sense that not resorting to impulsive violence isn’t an impossible act and that the dismantling of some of the worst this world has to offer is more within reach now than it has been at any point in history.

From virtually every angle, this is the band’s best work by several miles. Whereas Brutalism was a galvanizing triumph, Joy As An Act of Resistance is an inspiring masterpiece. A startlingly impassioned plea to retain our humanity and protect our truest values at all costs. A rousing call to not just embrace the good in life but to fight against the forces that serve as their threats while still having as much goddamn fun as possible. “June” is as stark a reminder as any that the time we have to experience the best this current world has to offer is fleeting.

No record in 2018 sounded more like a knowing smile paired with a middle finger and that’s a remarkably tough line to balance. IDLES deserve all the acclaim in the world for what they accomplished with this one, earning a devoted following that knows it’ll be wise to hang onto every word coming out of the band’s camp. More than just a record that represented the chaos of 2018 the best, Joy As An Act of Resistance was 2018’s best. A rare work of unparalleled feeling, IDLES can now lay claim to one of the young millennium’s strongest works. Leave this on repeat, we might need the guidance.

 


Further Listening: Forth Wanderers – Forth Wanderers | Tomberlin – At Weddings | Options – Vivid Trace | Stove – ‘s Favorite Friend | Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends | Momma – Interloper | Basement Revolver – Heavy Eyes | Dentist – Night Swimming | Dilly Dally – Heaven | Mount Eerie – Now Only | En Attendant Ana – Lost and Found | The Magic Lantern – To the Islands | Dead Tenants – II | Valley Maker – Rhododendron | Curling – Definitely Band | Whitney Ballen – You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship | Royal Brat – Eyesore | Hovvdy – Cranberry | Yowler – Black Dog In My Path | Black Belt Eagle Scout – Mother of my Children | The Sidekicks – Happiness Hours | The Royal They – Foreign Being | Bent Denim – Town & Country | Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams | Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want | Screaming Females – All at Once | Hank Wood and the Hammerheads – Hank Wood and the Hammerheads | Fred Thomas – Aftering | Pipsy – Users | No Problem – Let God Sort ‘Em Out | Jeff Rosenstock – POST- | Speedy Ortiz – Twerp Verse | Jean Grae & Quelle Chris – Everything’s Fine | sewingneedle – user error | Connections – Foreign Affairs | Sean Henry – Fink | Flasher – Constant Image | Winter – Ethereality | Spring Onion – i did my taxes for free online | Ben Seretan – My Life’s Work | gobbinjr – Ocala Wick | Trace Mountains – A Partner to Lean On | Gia Margaret – There’s Always Glimmer | Vundabar – Smell Smoke | milo – budding ornotholigsts are weary of tired analogies | Major Murphy – No. 1 | Puppy Problems – Sunday Feeling | The Goon Sax – We’re Not Talking | Say Sue Me – Where We Were Together | Peel Dream Magazine – Modern Meta Physic | Alien Boy – Sleeping Lessons | Peach Kelli Pop – Gentle Leader | Woolen Men – Post | Antarctigo Vespucci – Love in the Time of E-mail | Julia Holter – Aviary | Interbelum – Dead Pets, Old Grief | Yours Are The Only Ears – Knock Hard | Free Cake For Every Creature – The Bluest Star | Adeline Hotel – Away Together | Marbled Eye – Leisure | JACK – Alchemical Rounds | Renata Zeiguer – Old Ghost | Doffing – Tower of Ten Thousand Miles | Anna McClellan – Yes and No | Rick Rude – Verb For Dreaming | Clearance – At Your Leisure | Superteen – Over Everything | Bambara – Shadow on Everything | The World Without Parking Lots – Seventh Song Counts the Engines | Jo Passed – Their Prime | Mutual Benefit – Thunder Follows the Light | Flasher – Constant Image | Drug Church – Cheer | Wimps – Garbage People | Young Scum – Young Scum | GABI – Empty Me | Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs | No Age – Snares Like A Haircut | Exhalants – Exhalants | Bat Fangs – Bat Fangs

Two Months, Six Music Videos

Two months in a world where new releases never stop building can unearth a lifetime’s worth of new material. Whether it’s songs, music videos, or records, there will be more than enough material to keep anyone whose willing to invest the time occupied for weeks on end. This post will take a look back at six of the most notable clips to find release since the last regularly scheduled feature post went up, ranging from short films to compilations to animation. All of these are worth the time.

Lucero – Long Way Back Home

Jeff Nichols has been one of this generation’s best filmmakers since Take Shelter‘s release in 2011. Two people who have been inextricably intertwined in that development are Michael Shannon — who has delivered a number of tour de force performances for the director — and sibling Ben Nichols, who fronts Lucero and has gifted many of Jeff’s films songs for the end credits. “Long Way Back Home” is another impressive collaborative effort from all three talents, with strong ties back to Jeff’s debut feature Shotgun Stories. It’s an incredibly captivating look at a fractured relationship, invoking a sense of dread, deceit, and finality. We could all stand to learn a lot from the brothers Nichols, Shannon, and game co-stars Garrett Hedlund and Scoot McNairy.

illuminati hotties – Cuff

illuminati hotties are in the throes of a breakout year, stacking up impressive pieces with ease. “Cuff” is a psychedelic stream-of-consciousness onslaught of imagery that perplexes and soothes in equal measure, centering around an anthropomorphic fish going through a daily routine. It’s a gripping piece of animation and a vivid display of imagination, the two coalescing into a memorable clip from one of 2018’s hungriest emergent acts.

Courtney Barnett – Charity

Few independently-minded artists seem as deserving of a sweeping victory lap as Courtney Barnett, who has consistently done things on her own terms, whether it be launching a label to ensure total creative and artistic freedom or simply hanging on to the joy of performing in the face of growing audiences and the expectations that accompany that growth. Barnett has yet to make a disappointing record and seems to thrive in the pursuit of artistic evolution. The clip for “Charity” feels like that victory lap, blending in hangout footage with live edit clips from monstrous sold-out shows. It’s a moment that Barnett’s earned and, like everything else the songwriter’s released, immensely enjoyable.

Young Jesus – Saganism vs. Buddhism 

One of the staples of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage since it was started five years ago has been Young Jesus, who have moved from Chicago to L.A. and worked their way up from self-releases to a deal with Saddle Creek. Their forthcoming The Whole Things Is Just There is the band’s most ambitious and fearless work to date, which will be their first true effort for their new label. In keeping with their growing sense of experimentation, the band’s releases a music video for “Saganism vs. Buddhism” that the band self-directed, going from a tongue-in-cheek intro that finds bandleader John Rossiter embracing cringe comedy to the illustrations and stop-motion work that has been a mainstay of their visual work for several years. Fascinating and teeming with confidence, “Saganism vs. Buddhism” proves the band’s not concerned about adhering to anything other than the identity they’ve carved out for themselves.

Advance Base – Your Dog 

The simplistic conceit for Advanced Base’s “Your Dog” clip is rendered remarkably effective thanks to the song’s immense emotional heft. Compiled of nothing but fan-sourced photographs of people’s pets “Your Dog” becomes almost unbearably sad. A song written as a tribute to the fallout of a relationship where a partner visits more for an animal than their disappearing partner, the video manages to cut into something lasting, to devastating effect. It’s a draining experience, one that makes implicit and explicit statements about varying degrees of mortality; a reminder that everything has an expiration date. Startling and imbued with raw feeling, “Your Dog” is the kind of clip that sticks.

Dilly Dally – Doom

Dilly Dally‘s “Doom” appears to be the next installment in a series of of music videos that double as a direct commentary on Dilly Dally’s absence and rebirth. The band’s already made varying statements about how they collectively weathered a few trips through personal hell while facing down various addictions and how those experiences nearly buried the band. The clip for “I Feel Free” found bandleader Katie Monk’s literally unearthing the corpses of the other members and urging them to come back to life while “Doom” posits Monks as a torch-bearing leader guiding them to a spiritual ascension. Full of vivid imagery, soft hues, and more than a few nods to witchcraft, “Doom” makes it abundantly clear that Dilly Dally has returned- and that they’re intent on a reckoning.

 

 

Casper Skulls – Colour of the Outside (Music Video)

The past week ended in a flurry of excellent songs from the likes of illuminati hotties, Sam Evian, Peach Kelli Pop, NOVA ONE, Porlolo, Marmalakes, Yours Are the Only Ears, Middle Kids, Eerie Gaits, Mess, Jon Patrick Walker, Strange Boy, and Chase the Horseman. Over that same short span of days, Casper Skulls’ music video for “Colour On the Outside” offered up a stark reminder of that band’s potency.  Director, editor, and DOP Shawn Kosmo heads up the clip, which toys with and subverts the traditional performance clip.

There’s an engaging palette (the pale blues at the beginning are especially mesmerizing) that morphs as the song barrels along, matching an impressive range of motion for both the camera and its subjects. “Colour of the Outside” also offers up a masterclass in lighting but those small, significant details would be lost without engaging core performances from the band members. Casper Skulls have given notable performances in their clips before but deliver here with some extra weight behind their conviction, making “Colour of the Outside” a testament to their growing confidence. Tethered together, the cumulative effect is spellbinding, pushing the band to an unexpected career highlight that’s massively satisfying and imparts a sense of excitement for whatever Casper Skulls decide to do next.

Watch “Colour of the Outside” below and pick up a copy of the band’s recent Mercy Works over on their bandcamp.

The Best Songs of March 2018

The last three weeks of March brought a lot of excellent tracks into the world but the 10 below managed to separate themselves as genuine standouts. A trio of acts that appeared in the last “Best Of” featured segment strike again while the rest of the acts here are either old favorites or making first-time appearances. From scintillating noise-punk to gentle washes of ambient folk, there’s a lot here to explore. Find a new favorite song below.

1. Spring Onion – I Did My Taxes For Free Online

Sometimes all an artist needs is one song to snag an audience and that may very well be the case with Spring Onion’s “I Did My Taxes For Free Online”, which boasts some of the hallmarks that have made acts like Told Slant, Radiator Hospital, and LVL UP so beloved. Immensely relatable, beautifully constructed, and coming from an unsparing, honest place, “I Did My Taxes For Free Online” is a strong early testament to an emergent talent worth remembering.

2-3. illuminati hotties – Paying Off The Happiness + Cuff

illuminati hotties are building up an insane amount of momentum on their way to the release of their debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies. The band’s already been featured in the monthly best-of columns once this year and they’re doubling up here with the 1-2 combo of the irresistible hooks of “Paying Off The Happiness” and the introspective reckoning of “Cuff”. Both songs continue to demonstrate the band’s strengths and, taken with “(You’re Better) Than Ever” suggests they might not have any weaknesses.

4. bed. – Replay

A characteristically melancholic piece of muted, driving basement pop, bed.‘s “Replay” is imbued with the kind of considered energy that’s gained the band a small but fiercely loyal following. Measured and slightly unpredictable, “Replay” toys with extremes its narrative and its composition, allowing the two to play off each other to great effect. It’s a standout piece in what’s already a stellar discography and suggests the band’s peak is either arriving or already here. No complaints either way.

5. Maria Kelly – Small Talk

“Small Talk”, the latest from Maria Kelly is a masterclass in creating gentle tension and magnetic atmosphere. Smart production, tender composition, and an effectively wistful delivery combine into something intangible, creating something that pulls and mesmerizes in equal measure. It’s a gorgeous piece of ambient folk, weaving a spell that all but submerges the listener into a separate, empathetic world.

6. Closet Goth – Touch Myself

Easily the fiercest song in this 10 track list, Closet Goth’s “Touch Myself” makes no bones about being aggressive, exploding out of the gate and building speed as it goes, not content unless everything in its path is completely demolished. References to Silver Jews are nearly buried in the noise-centric production, intentionally drowning out — and simultaneously enhancing — some intense caterwauling. Vicious, ragged, and uncompromising, “Touch Myself” leaves wreckage in its wake as it winds to a fun, unexpected close.

7. Fenne Lily – Car Park

The second artist on this list to make a consecutive appearance in the monthly “best of” columns, Fenne Lily‘s “Car Park” is another strong example of the breadth of the songwriter’s scope. In slowing down the tempo and widening the lens, Fenne Lily taps into something that skews closer to world-building than atmosphere construction. It’s a beautiful piece of modern Americana that seems to indicate Lily’s bag of tricks might be more expansive than most know.

8. Annabel Allum – Rascal

“Rascal”, the latest track from Annabel Allum is a perfect example of how a minimal setup can lead to enormous moments. Borrowing cues from slacker punk, folk, Americana, post-rock, and ambient, Annabel Allum wind up with an enticing piece of genre-bending excellence. Impassioned performances at every slot and a meticulously constructed arrangement congeal into one of the more breathtaking moments of 2018’s first quarter.

9. Say Sue Me – After Falling Asleep

The third and final artist to appear in consecutive monthly Best Of’s Say Sue Me follow their initial outing with yet another strong track from their excellent forthcoming Where We Were Together. “After Falling Asleep”, the band’s newest offering, opens with an almost intensely quiet moment before blooming into a seductive burst of indie pop. Soft edges and a wide-eyed approach has been a pattern that’s served Say Sue Me well in the past and it continues to do so on the lovely “After Falling Asleep”, one of their most irresistible tracks to date.

10. Bent Denim – Chasing Catherine

Last year, this site had the privilege of premiering Diamond Jubilee, an extraordinary EP from site favorites Bent Denim. Now, the act’s returned with “Chasing Catherine”, another show-stopping bit of softly hued ambient pop that more than justifies its place in their increasingly impressive discography. Bent Denim can conjure up a very specific type of mood better than just about any of their contemporaries and it shows in “Chasing Catherine”, a short slow-burner that immediately invokes the feeling of a calm summer night and keeps that fire flickering until its hushed, tender close.

The 35 Best Songs of 2018’s First Two Months

Two months and one week into 2018, the year’s already seen a slew of legitimately great songs. Below are 35 that managed to stand just a cut above the bevvy of incoming tracks that populated the most recent post on this site. While a select few picks below have two entries in this list, it’s still a varied list that features a diverse cast of overflowing talent. It should also be noted that a few songs were cut from consideration as the records they belong to will be featured in an upcoming post. At any rate, no matter how the tallies for representation work, this list is a testament to the strength of 2018’s early material. Make sure these aren’t forgotten.

1. Say Sue Me – Old Town

Last year, Say Sue Me put out an intoxicating and winsome record and are already gearing up for the release of a new record. “Old Town”, the strongest single to emerge from the early round of releases for the project’s forthcoming Where We Were Together, acts as a memorable showcase of what made people fall so hard for this band in the first place. Breezy melodies, smart arrangements, and a paradoxical mixture of urgency and relaxation combine once again for one of early 2018’s most charming tracks.

2. Canshaker Pi – Put A Record Out

“Put A Record Out” bristles and grunts out of the gate and gains a head of steam as things move along, embracing the noise/punk flourishes that have come to define the current era’s iteration of post-punk. It’s Canshaker Pi making a willfully gnarled statement and delivering it with enough force to make sure it leaves a sizable imprint. When it’s done, it’s enough to leave a listener breathless. Keep up or get trampled.

3. Jay Som – Hot Bread

The rightful owner of this site’s Best Song of 2016 distinction, Jay Som has been not-so-quietly making waves over the last year. Racking up an endless amount of accolades and new listeners, the tireless Melina Duterte has remained on a tear, releasing new music at a startling rate. “Hot Bread”, released as part of a Valentine’s Day playlist for Amazon, ably demonstrates that Jay Som’s scope will continue to grow with the project’s ambitions, leaving us to count ourselves lucky to be witnesses.

4. (SANDY) Alex G – fay

An enigmatic release from an increasingly subversive artist, “fay” stands as one of the crown jewels of (SANDY) Alex G‘s recent efforts. Posted to the act’s official YouTube account with no type of buildup or press release, the song’s allowed to breathe freely (and gently) on its own terms. Paired with a truly bizarre “about” statement, “fay” acts as a mesmerizing puzzle box full of the kind of sticks-for-weeks hooks that (SANDY) Alex G built a name on, it’s a welcome reminder of a formidable talent.

5. Big Ups – PPP

Big Ups have staked their claim as one of the most fascinating hardcore-leaning acts in recent memory and snarled at anyone who even tried to touch the flag they planted. To remind everyone of how they earned their place, the band ushered out “PPP” as an advance warning to what’ll surely lie in wait on the band’s forthcoming Two Parts Together. Intricate harmonic work, versatile performances, and unhinged bristling combine for another intense triumph.

6. illuminati hotties – (You’re Better) Than Ever

“(You’re Better) Than Ever” will act as an introductory piece to illuminati hotties for a great many and it’s hard to imagine too many people walking away from the band’s warm invitation. A sunny melody shot through with basement pop trappings, “(You’re Better) Than Ever” succeeds on every level, from pristine production to bursts of joyous, unbridled energy. It’s a strong starting step for a band that seems determined to take off sprinting.

7-8. Forth Wanderers – Nevermine + Not For Me

A band on a continuous uptick, Forth Wanderers prove once again why their name carries weight with this two song combo that reasserts their position as one of today’s more tantalizing acts. “Nevermine” and “Not For Me” are both — in what’s become a heartening trend, as it happens with each of their new releases — career high points for the band, who have matured into a confident, focused machine, finding a way to retain an abundance of heart in the process.

9. Hit Bargain – Capitulate

One of a handful of songs on this list that act as a razor-sharp burst of noise-punk, “Capitulate” finds Hit Bargain intentionally wielding a level of ugliness with unbridled aggression. It’s a furious run through genre touch points that takes on life as it barrels headlong into some unknown destination. The band’s expertise is evident and their execution is flawless, rendering “Capitulate” a potent warning of Hit Bargain’s capabilities.

10. Kal Marks – Today I Walked Down To The Tree, Read A Book, And When I Was Done I Went Back Inside

A mainstay of this site’s coverage, Kal Marks has continuously expanded their ambition with each successive release and “Today I Walked Down To The Tree…” keeps that trend in place. A winding, four minute slow-burner, the song finds Kal Marks at their most unabashedly pensive. While Kal Marks still finds moments of catharsis in those minutes, the experience as a whole towers above its individual moments; it’s a breathtaking feat from a band always worth hearing.

11. Stef Chura – Degrees

“Degrees” has been covered more exhaustively than any other individual Stef Chura release thanks to the involvement of Car Seat Headrest‘s Will Toledo.  Hopefully Toledo’s high-profile involvement will be more than enough to turn people onto Chura’s excellent early work. At any rate, “Degrees” — a towering piece of incredibly strong Americana-tinged indie rock — does stand as Chura’s boldest effort to date and effectively heightens the anticipation for what the songwriter’s future holds in store.

12. Juan De Fuca – A Place To Wait

A few seconds is all it takes for Juan De Fuca’s “A Place To Wait” to announce itself with clarity. A post-punk number shot through with nervous jitters, the track seems simplistic at first blush before rewarding a closer look with a tapestry of layers. Delivered with confidence, teeming with feeling, and unafraid to reach for stratospheric heights, “A Place To Wait” became one of 2018’s more pleasant surprises and it’s hard to imagine that status changing.

13. Haley Hendrickx – Untitled God Song

Oom Sha La La” was a song that managed to hook a whole lot of people into Haley Hendrickx‘s world but it also set a dangerously high precedent. “Untitled God Song” went a long way in assuaging any lingering doubts. A slow, tender track, “Untitled God Song” finds Hendrickx establishing a voice, marrying empathy with wariness to great effect. Warm tones and an arresting vocal delivery ensure the song a place as a piece of breathtaking artistry.

14. Superchunk – Erasure

Storied veterans making comebacks that reassert the band’s music as relevant among a new sect of contemporaries isn’t all that common, which is why when it happens it tends to be doubly impressive. That’s exactly the scenario Superchunk has found themselves in since the release of Majesty Shredding and it’s a space they continue to occupy with What A Time To Be Alive, which boasted “Erasure” as a lead-off single. All told: Still energetic, still distinctive, still perfectly Superchunk.

15-16. Frankie Cosmos – Jesse + Being Alive

Over an endless amount of self-releases and some incredibly smart campaigning, Frankie Cosmos have found themselves in an unlikely position of being revered as a bastion of consistency and as a tantalizing emergent act. Greta Kline’s project has navigated the transition from solo project to full band with no shortage of grace and the band, now more than ever, feels complete. Both “Jesse” and “Being Alive” prove the band’s as adept at invention as reinvention, keeping Frankie Cosmos’ unassuming charm intact all the while.

17. Kid Dakota – Keep Coming Back

Few records over the first two months of this year have proved to be as inventive as Kid Dakota‘s Denervation, a collection of kaleidoscopic powerpop that’s highlighted by the inspired 7-minute “Keep Coming Back”. Intricate arrangements, a cavalcade of effective hooks, and a casual assurance congeal into something ridiculously captivating. Whether it’s the snaky snyth riff or the stabs of the guitar-led bridge or the extended outro, “Keep Coming Back” makes sure it offers enough to make a strong case to heed the title’s command.

18. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Riddles

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat already boasts a 4+ year history of crafting memorably minimalist post-punk, which made the band’s announcement of a Dan Deacon-produced record as enticing as it was baffling. On Riddles the duo hits new heights by leaping outside of their established narrative to cling onto something unexpected, a move and effect underscored nicely by the record’s piano-driven title track that sees the band falling a lot closer to early Cold Cave than Death From Above 1979.

19. Pale Kids – St. Theresa

Father/Daughter Records has become a proven entity in securing bands that effectively fuse outsize energy with unapologetic sincerity and Pale Kids are no exception. “St. Theresa” stands as proof of the formula, with the quartet leaning into a 2 minute outburst of hyper-melodic basement pop. Pointed, unrestrained, and fueled by as much snark as conviction, “St. Theresa” is yet another welcome shot of adrenaline from the promising quartet.

20. Many Rooms – which is to say, everything

The first moment of genuine tranquility on this list belongs to Many Room‘s gorgeous “which is to say, everything”. Pitched at a hush, the song soothes the nerves as it glides along for its four minutes, never rising past a measured whisper. Informed by both a sense of a loss and a sense of curiosity, “which is to say, everything” positions Many Rooms as an act whose name is worth committing to memory.

21-22. Boys – End of Time + Rabbits

Accentuating dream pop influences in powerpop has served bands like Alvvays incredibly well over the past few years. Boys is another name to add to that list, with the act releasing two beautiful pieces centered around that genre hybrid in “End of Time” and “Rabbits”. “End of Time” showcasing the band’s sense of reservation and “Rabbits” playing to their own curious brand of insistence. Composed and beautifully crafted, they’re worthy additions to any carefree summer night playlist.

23. Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

Far and away the most country-leaning track among these 35 selections, Courtney Marie Andrews proves what the genre can still offer when it extends beyond a set of self-imposed limitations. Bringing strains of gospel influence to the forefront, Andrews manages to craft a heartfelt paean to the virtues of kindness. As the organ swells and the choir provides support, the collaborative balance finds itself intrinsically connected to the song’s central message. When it ends, the song does everything in its power to make sure its message is heard.

24. Walter Martin – Me & McAlevey

One of the more unexpected delights in recent music has been the quiet emergence of Walter Martin — best known for his organ playing in The Walkmen — as a singular songwriting force. Last year’s My Kinda Music was an extraordinary (and woefully overlooked) presentation of Martin’s abilities and boasted a handful of gems like “Hey Matt“, a song that gets a lovely sequel in “Me & McAlevey”. It’s another piece of affecting folk shot through with a distinctly modern wit.

25. Liza Anne – Small Talks

In its first minute Liza Anne‘s “Small Talks” manages to be reminiscent of a handful of recent artists and songs, yet it never comes across like an imitation and hits the considerable heights of its predecessors. Exuberant, determined, and delivered with as much urgency as conviction, “Small Talks” manages to sink its hooks in deep. An utterly winsome technicolor burst of warmth and certainty, it’s incredibly endearing- and worth leaving on repeat.

26-27. Trace Mountains – Cary’s Dreams + Turn Twice

While most people are likely to know Dave Benson from LVL UP, the songwriter’s solo project, Trace Mountains, has been releasing equally rewarding material for years (with a handful of instances of those songs becoming breeding grounds for LVL UP reworkings). On “Cary’s Dream” and “Turn Twice”, Benson manages to look to the forward and reach to the past. “Cary’s Dreams” is a testament to Benson’s vision, offering up a reminder of his considerable gifts while “Turn Twice” — first released in demo form several years ago — proves just how effective the multi-instrumentalist is with a bold brand of reinvention.

28. Paul De Jong – You Fucken Sucker

Opening with electro glitches and a hypnotic strumming pattern, Paul De Jong‘s “You Fucken Sucker” quickly changes shape as the lyrics kick in as a soothing voice starts reciting the verses to Mary Had A Little Lamb before things change even more drastically. It’s in the reveal of the chorus where the song separates itself and arrives as something intoxicating in its willingness to beguile. A playful piece shot through with dark humor, “You Fucken Sucker” more than proves that Paul De Jong is still fully capable of thriving outside of The Books.

29. Remember Sports – Up From Below

The return of Remember Sports — formerly just SPORTS — at the onset of 2018 got the year off to a heartening start. “Up From Below” quickly followed that announcement to make it abundantly clear that the band had held onto their sense of tenacity as well as their ability to craft a perfect piece of basement pop. Med-fi, hyper, and ridiculously catchy, “Up From Below” has already set an extremely precedent for what the future might have in store.

30. Fenne Lily. – On Hold

The opening bars of Fenne Lily.’s mesmerizing “On Hold” should be all it takes to secure just about anyone’s interest. Delivered with arresting tenderness, those first moments are strengthened as the song takes shape, exercising a measure of restraint that doubles as unexpected, incredibly cultivated tension. There are no big moments of catharsis but “On Hold” has different goals in mind; every step of the journey is as important as moments of celebration. Spellbinding from start to close, “On Hold” is a well-earned triumph.

31. Vundabar – Tonight I’m Wearing Silk

Over the past few months, Vundabar have found the size of their audience rapidly growing and it’s in large part due to the artistic leap the band’s taken with songs like “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk”. Teeming with memorable riffs, unexpected dynamics, and a butcher’s selection of hooks, “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk” almost comes across like a victory lap. Vundabar have found a way to heighten every single one of their innumerable strengths and the results are already paying off. “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk” is a keepsake for everyone fortunate enough to be following along.

32-33. Bonny Doon – A Lotta Things + I Am Here (I Am Alive)

When Salinas released Bonny Doon‘s sweeping self-titled record last year, it was greeted as the band’s coming out party. A lot of people took notice of the band’s charismatic, including the reliably excellent Woodsist label who quickly found a way to get the band on their roster. With “A Lotta Things” and “I Am Here (I Am Alive)” now both out in the world, it’s plainly evident that Woodsist made another in a history of great decisions, as Bonny Doon have found a way to capitalize on their sprawling punk-informed Americana. Both tracks are new career highs for the band and offer a strong signal that for many, their forthcoming Longwave could just wind up in the discussion for Album of the Year.

34. Half Waif – Torches

All it took was seeing a recent Half Waif set for the band to significantly elevate their position of interest to this site’s overall coverage. While the band’s older material had been touched upon several times in the past, it’s in their new material where they’ve tapped into something that feels genuinely different. “Torches” is a perfect example of that new space, as it presents the most fully-realized version of the band’s identity to date, opening up their synth-led electro-pop into something a touch more experimental and a degree more forceful. Unapologetic in its stance and fearless in its execution, “Torches” marks an exciting new era for a band worthy of a close watch.

35. Mount Eerie – Distortion

The recent decision to list Mount Eerie‘s “Real Death” as 2017’s Song of the Year — let alone, covered at all — was a surprisingly difficult one due to its tragic, uncomfortably intimate narrative. How Phil Elverum’s project has sustained multiple tour runs in support of that record is beyond the comprehension of most observers, who have left those shows visibly shaken. Elverum recently rolled out a sequel to that record, which continues to expand on the sudden death of his wife and his trepidation over how to greet single parenthood in the shadow of the other person responsible for his daughter’s very being.

“Distortion”, an 11-minute tour de force, was one of the first looks at Now Only and remains one of its most awkward, gripping moments. From the devastating opening verse to allegories invoking beat poets, every second of “Distortion” is felt in full as Elverum continues to allow us full access into an unimaginable position. By repeatedly tearing open his wounds, Elverum seems to be searching for a means to heal, cautiously allowing listeners to join the grieving, the fears, the concerns, and the memories of a woman who’s come to define a good portion of his own existence. It’s brutally unforgiving but in its own way, it finds a sliver of beauty in the empathy that it presents. In short: it’s unforgettable.

2018: A Long Look, A Longer Listen (The First Two Months)

A persistent and all-consuming myth among people that refuse to commit a shred of investment to any sort of search is that “good music just doesn’t exist anymore.” It’s the same sort of thinking present in the cavalcade of thoughtless attempts to shift any sort of blame for societal ills to a younger generation based solely on an outlook that was defined by a vastly different era. Fortunately, there are a host of artists to emphatically disprove brand of thinking and act as a counter to what could be construed as a subtle, insidious form of ageism. Below there are literally hundreds of links providing access to various songs, music videos, and records.

All of them are worth a shot and a good many of them are vastly different from their surrounding links. Each of those items came out in 2018 and there’s an entire world more of them waiting to be discovered by the people willing to put in the work. So use these as a starter pack of sorts or just scroll through and see what today’s musicians can offer. It’s a boundless scope and when its allowed to not just exist but thrive, there are a multitude of reasons to celebrate. Enjoy.

SONGS

Okkervil River, Hop Along, OughtFrøkedal, ConnectionsNoble Son, Mount EerieRich Girls, DuskTherese Litner, Soccer MommyHindsEric Benoit, JACK (x2), The Radio Dept., Parker Longbough, Rat Kid CoolWhy Bonnie (x2), Holy Now (x2), High Sunn (x2), Odina, Spielbergs, The Breeders, Shark ToysJouska (x2), Yazan, Johanna Warren, No Thank You, Drive Me Home Please, Your Old Droog, Charly Bliss, Liza Anne, Father John Misty, Rolling Blackouts C.F., Chemtrails, Katie Von SchleicherWavves & Culture Abuse, VALES, Sharaya Summers, Katie Dey, War On Women, The Goldberg Sisters (x2), Busdriver (x2), Queen of Jeans (x2), Shell of A Shell (x2), Soccer Mommy (x2)

Bodies Be Rivers, Cold Fronts, Three Man Cannon, Russian Baths (x2, 3), Rachel Angel, Francobollo, Big Air, Dryspell (x2), Deanna Petcoff, Sam Levin, Good Air, Helena DelandTrès Oui, Josh Rouse, Sarah Mary ChadwickDustedBonny Doon, Jay Som (x2), Golden Drag, In Tall Buildings, Mastersystem, The Love-Birds, School Disco, Caroline Rose, Zomber, Drawing Boards, SALES, Big Bliss, Wax IdolsErika Wennerstrom (x2), Droopies, Jalen N’GondaKid Dakota (x2), Haley Hendrickx, Tim Kuhl, Sunflower Bean, BambaraBenjamin Lazar Davis (x2), Hanz, Courtney Marie Andrews (x2), Verge Collection, Now, Now, Lowpines, Hurry (x2), Pole Siblings, Birds of Passage

Bush Tetras, Maria Kelly, Rafiq Bahtia, Cut Worms, Death By Unga Bunga, Sitcom, Natalie Shay, Wussy, Citris, Sculpture Club, TheodoreElan Noon (x2), Avalon, Terror Pigeon, Greg Mendez, Neil O’NeilDélage (x2, 3), Anna McClellan, Nap Eyes (x2), BILK, Malena Zavala, Camp Cope, Guerilla Toss, Damaged Bug, Gentle Leader XIV, Kraus, Bummerville (x2), WINDHAND, Numb.erErik Phillips, Oberon Rose, Lizzie Loveless, Hot Snakes, Girlpool, American Nightmare, Dr. Octagon (x2), Runaway Brother, A Grave With No Name, Samara Lubelski, vaarwell, The Golden DregsBelle MareChappo, HOLY, Vamping, Noble SonS. Carey, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat (x2), TT

Sofia Härdig, GrouperAir Waves (x2), Tenderfoot (x2), Sunflower Bean, Josh Mover & The Shakers, Jean-Michael BlaisMany RoomsFreedom Baby, La Luzilluminati hottiesThe Black Lips & The Khan FamilyMelvins, Extravision, AnemoneEverett Bird, Parquet Courts, Life In VacuumSuperteen, Cindy Lee, Ricky Lewis, BUDDIESam Moss, Sego, BRNDADungen & Woods, Loma, John Craigie (x2), Lanikai, Pony LeagueDreamend, Sea Moya, Oceanator, Holly Miranda, Renata Zeiguer, Deathlist, Wilder MakerLea Bertucci, Cutouts, Sur Back (x2), I’m Kingfisher, ANMLPLNET, Oneida, wyd, Western Scene, Bad BreedingThe Drums, Bob HolroydWill Stewart, Varvara

Jerry David Decicca, Redolent, Lokki, ROOS, QWAM, Water From Your Eyes, Old S Resort, Jesse Merchant, Dead Sullivan, John Moods, They Might Be Giants, Cool Ghouls, Strawberry Mountain, The Low Anthem, Peacock Affect, The fin., Ezra Feinberg, EMA, Sloan, The Voidz, VOWWS, Nature Shots, Narrow Head, Sleepyhead, Bob Holroyd, Virginia Wing, Orchid MantisYoung Statues, Kate Teague, Leyya, Pinky Pinky, Mind Over MirrorsWalter Martin, Beach House, The Sea and the Cake, Alice Bag, Eels, Hero-Fisher, Andy CookDatarock, Dabrye, Swear TapesTerra Naomi, FeverbonesPariuh, David Byrne, Palm, Youth In A Roman FieldKid Koala, LokkiHelena Deland

Freedom Fry, ARXX, Troels Abrahamsen, Young Fathers, Post Louis, SpandrelsHannah Epperson, Saw Black, Iceage, Dylan CarlsonAmerican Pleasure Club, Swampmeat Family Band, Pearl Charles, Chez Ali, Compltr, Refrigerator, The Nectars, Candy Ambulance, Death, Jack Watts., Simon D JamesToebow, yndi halda, SabiyhaEllie Schmidly, Sitcom, Doby Watson, Laura Veirs, Lost Horizons, Lost Under Heaven, Andy Jenkins, Guts Club, Yo La Tengo, Media Jeweler, The Saxophones, Hum, Margaret Glaspy, Cary Illinois, Susan the Cat, I Hate You Just Kidding, Tee Grizzley, Barren Womb, Madeline Kenney, I Think Like Midnight, Spirit In The Room, Torgeir Waldemar, LuxGaze, and Japanese Breakfast.

MUSIC VIDEOS

Ought, Parquet Courts, Shy Kids (x2), Caroline Rose, Billy Moon, Screaming Females, Car Seat Headrest, Current Joys (x2, 3, 4), Somehow, Night Flowers (x2), Palehound, Heaven, Look Vibrant, Pip Blom, Ultimate Painting, Royal Brat, CorridorFalcon Jane, Olden Yolk (x2), Stella Donnelly, Nap Eyes, Winter, Wendyfix (x2), Dusted, Superorganism, Pale Kids, Z Berg, Son Lux, Palm, The Spook School, Clint Michigan, Girl Ray, Rostam, Japanese Breakfast, OdinaFrankie Cosmos, Von K, Dogeyed

Shopping (x2), Speedy Ortiz, Treehouses, Holiday Ghosts, Sports Team, Sonny Smith, Bully, Tremends, Bethlehem Steel, Soccer Mommy, The ArmedPJ Harvey & Harry Escott, Lucy Dacus, Moaning (x2), Cloud Castle Lake, Albert Hammond Jr., Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, FlasherNative Sun, Emma Tricca, Partner, Drowse, Barren Womb, Martha Ffion (x2), Honduras, S. Carey, Middle Kids, Newspoke (x2, 3), Callow, Charlotte Day Wilson, Suuns, Goat Girl, Shamir, Death Bells, Guppy, Half Waif (x2)

ROOS, Natalie Prass, Cornelius (x2), Peach Kelli Pop, King Tuff (x2), The Winter Passing, Renata Zeiguer, La Luz, Bat Fangs, Jess WilliamsonSkating Polly, Lionlimb (x2), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michael RaultGianni Paci, Queen of Jeans, Dirty Fences, Sorry, Wiggy Giggy, Lemuria, Tough Age, Yours Are the Only Earsnothing,nowhere., Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders, Kal MarksScuffleSløtface, Kal Marks, Coping SkillsLauren Ruth Ward (x2, 3), Charmpit, They Might Be Giants, Hurry, First Aid Kit

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Fun Fare, Daddy Issues, The AmazingJeff Rosenstock, boerdJanelle Monáe, Sc Mira, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Surrounder, Iceage, The Go! Team, Mavis Staples, Eels, Margo Price, Titus Andronicus, Alice Bag, Oddnesse, Jessica RiskerFRANKIIEDestroyer, Spinning Coin, Damien Jurado, Ed Schrader’s Music BeatLa Bête BloomsThe Lonely Biscuits, Prawn, Hippo Campus, New Spell, Dream Wife, Echo Pressure, Amen Dunes, Leroy Francis, Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet

Montero, ShitKid, The Dazies, Marlon Williams, Lazy DayLaura Veirs, Lily Allen, Fruition, No Age, YACHT, Sunny War, Cut Worms, Glen Hansard, Trevor Ransom, Hannah Epperson, Seafoam, VedeTTClever Girls, In Tall Buildings, Fufanu, Lowpines, Tiny Fighter, The Prids, STRFKR, Hinds, SuperchunkTFS, Tallies, American Pleasure Club, Johanna Warren, Sam Himself, Men I TrustJessica Lea MayfieldA Place To Bury Strangers, Bad MovesRazorbumpsMoviestar, Teen CreepsPoppy AckroydCaroline Says, Charles Howl, Loma, Fontaines DC, CrumbAlessi’s Ark, Jenny Wilson, The Regrettes, Bummerville, GluedTenderfoot, Tree House, Susie Q, and si,irene.

FULL STREAMS

Vundabar, Hello Flora, Emily Yacina, Kal Marks, Harmony Tividad, Corey Flood, Johanna Warren, Palm, Plain Dog, Candace, Hovvdy, American Pleasure Club, Bat Fangs, Dark Thoughts, Poppy Ackroyd, Erik Phillips, Grave School, Cameron Boucher/Field Medic, The Number Ones, Margaret Glaspy, The Hold Steady, Guided By Voices, Superchunk, Bleary, Lillet Blanc, Hurry, Bedbug, I Hate You Just Kidding, Sidney Gish, weary, ther, Sunshine Faces, Elan Noon, Bodies Be Rivers, Hex, Hobbyist, Las Rosas

Dryspell, Rik & the Pigs, Amaya Laucirica, No MuseumsZinskē, First Thought Worst Thought, Sur Back, Little Star, Mind Spiders, Lowpines, Shopping, Mimicking Birds, Scrap Brain, The Go! Team, Th Da Freak, Shareef Keyes & The Groove, ShitKid, Unlikely Friends, Kid Dakota, Lightwash, Berry, Matthew Politoski, Holy Motors, Blushing, Shakey Graves, Tim Kuhl, Pando, Leyya, Shamir (x2), bristletongue, Dealer Plates, Hank Wood & the Hammerheads, closer, Bummerville, Tropical Trash, Brutal Birthday

Special Explosion, Hookworms, Lisa/Liza, Russian Baths, VOWWS, A Lily, Caroline Says, BB & The Blips, Listener, Balkan Bump, Martha Ffion, Corniglia, Qwam, HOLY, Spice Boys, Hour, Conviction, Cassandra Jenkins, Refrigerator, Sweeney, mita, and compilations from Z Tapes and Emotional Response (x2).