2018, what a year that was! Felt like it was only yesterday. Approximately the last year anyone was truly happy, it was a milestone in “hey things feel bad but are actually getting better in some ways”-type modern living. Enmeshed in the current diseased milieu, trying to even remember what year this is, 2018 is a fun jaunt to look back at. Continuing the tradition from over at Synthetic Error, let’s look at the best creative works of 2018, shall we?
Kicking things off as usual, we’ll be looking at the year in music in 2018. As usual, my side of the culture war doesn’t have Noname or Robyn on the bench. Although mostly ignored by culture at large, rock had a surprisingly strong year in 2018, with critics forced to take notice of many good efforts from bands that will never grace Clear Channel radio. New Yorker music critic Kelefa Sanneh writes that music genres are formed by a need to define communities by both inclusion and exclusion, and this communal appraisal forms the basis of what we think is taste. He follows that, if a community is based specifically on excluding what is popular (as punk was in years past), then anything that falls out of popularity is always available to be rotated into outsider group’s preferences again. Ah hah, we have a route by which rock might survive, and an explanation for why young Brits and Australians keep packing into basements with guitars to shred. With that hopeful outlook, appropriate for the year, lets see what came to fruition in 2018.
These cuts didn’t make the list but if you’re starved for ideas, here’s a few to pick through-
Great Escape Crippled Black Phoenix
The Diary of Robert Reverie Needlepoint
Look Now Elvis Costello & The Imposters
The Make It All Show Skating Polly
Historian Lucy Dacus
Rootstock Crypt Trip
Longing to Be the Mountain King Buffalo
World's Strongest Man Gaz Coombes
Dusk to Dusk Maggot Heart
Make Room Destroy Boys
Sparkle Hard Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks
Shadow on Everything Bambara
Bottle It In Kurt Vile
Okay! We’ll start the list off proper with #30-11, then come back for the top 10 later in the week. Enjoy!
30. Beach House-7
Perennial pitchfork picks, Beach House are masters of sensitive oceanic fuzzy indie drones. I wouldn’t know how to rank this against any other albums they put out, but they done done it again.
29. The Ex - 27 Passports
One way to keep rock alive is to just keep going. The Ex started 40 years ago and have been toiling in relative obscurity since, keeping the punk/hardcore thing going with albums throughout the entire period. 27 Passports reminds me of the late Menomena, a modern quirky rock record.
28 Avantdale Bowling Club - Avantdale Bowling Club
Let's take a break from that rock shit and enjoy some New Zealand rap. Just to my taste, I often require some instrumental element to enjoy rap and here it is in a constantly running jazz fusion backing track.
27 Iceage - Beyondless
Danish garage rock mumblers Iceage have a nice swing, and also explore a lot of sonic directions on this, the album with maybe the best cover on the list.
26. Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch
I am really glad Trent has worked through his various issues. NIN no longer has the urgency of someone somewhat damaged, but the skill he’s acquired as a composer seems to be bleeding into this precise, clean rock album.
25. The Voidz - Virtue
The Strokes era might be over, but Casablanca seems to have found a reliable play to experiment with his unique strain of glitchy rock. It’s production fantasy again but this time with gameboys plugged in.
24. Let's Eat Grandma -I'm All Ears
Synthy pop weirdness, harkens back to the more complex pop I like from bands like Chairlift
23. Last Building Burning Cloud Nothings
Cyano Crits Favorites, Cloud Nothings kind of lost the plot a few years ago and got bored with the hardcore sound that had pulled them out from the emo pack. Last Building Burning is an A-OK return to hardcore, and leaves me hopeful they may still be coming up on some great albums.
22. rook - Shed Blood
What if the lead singer of Lets Eat Grandma had had a much worse childhood? The exciting, distorted Rook puts together that premise on this genre bending pop landscape.
21. The Beths Future Me Hates Me
Okay, we’re back to guitar land, and the Beths here help us zoom in on the location of the last bastion. It’s the South Pacific, the English garage rockers playing Strats in New Zealand and Australia, the burgeoning scene that first broke open with Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett. NZ band The Beths are similar to Barnett, providing some feel good sun dappled rock anthems in a laid back manner.
20. 공중도둑 [Mid-Air Thief] - 무너지기 (Crumbling)
Mid-Air Thief crafts that fuzzy ghost in the box soundscape that I loved so much from Grizzly Bear’s earliest albums.
19. Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
Ok, it’s lazy to just endlessly compare but we’re still in the high teens and there’s a lot to do. Jazzy rock band Spiritualized strongly reminds me of Girls, a relic of the early 00’s indie period. Ironically, Spiritualized is another one of those bands that's been in the game a long time, still cranking since 1990, but I’ve only come upon them now.
18. Surface to Air Missive - Surface II Air Missive
Somehow keeping the dream alive in the southern states, Surface to Air Missive is a driving fuzz heavy rock band that would not seem out of place in the 00’s garage era, and this winning album is pretty consistent and fun.
17. Oh Sees - Smote Reverser
We find Oh Sees here in 2018 on their sixth name and twentieth (!!!) album, a heavy jam album that plays to their strengths and is an excellent showcase of the forest wandering West Coast garage rock sound.
16. Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth
Far from some historical exercise, Kamasi’s jazz albums represent a vital young love for an artform, born of hanging around with other musicians like Thundercat in the tiny clubs of Los Angeles. Heaven and Earth has a bit more of that street smart vibe with some ground level tunes mixed in with the divine choruses.
15. Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer
Father John Misty has turned into a reliable lounge act, giving us another crooning album on cue here. God’s Fave Customer is another calming and sweet lullaby laced with sardonic lyrics. This one feels a little bit more like it was written while drunk on the couch in an afternoon, but that does kind of seem like his thing.
14. Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer
Monae’s early albums hit right before the big social shift away from the progressive tolerance of old viewpoints which marked the Bush Jr. era. It’s interesting that, as of just about 2018, her queercore self determinism has become the dominant message in popular media. While that means that Dirty Computer’s themes lose some urgency and have gained some comfort, Monae is still great at finding hooks for her future-cool musicals on Dirty Computer.
13. Viagra Boys - Street Worms
The band is called Viagra Boys and the album is called Street Worms, do I really need to type anything here? Some good weird punk rock kinda like Talking Heads lets go.
12. Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog
Feels like one of those neato 90s singer songwriter albums, but Hop Along shoots way up the list for these occasional operatic swells and careful attention to the sonic landscape.
11 John Zorn - The Book Beri'ah
For awhile, this thing was available on Youtube and I listened to this crazy mix of compositional greatness, which seemed to include a fusion of jazz, classical, prog, and death metal. Now that its gone, I can’t find the damn thing. Different groups have uploaded different versions under this title, but they’re clearly something else. So we round out the last album before the Big Ten with this ghost album. Zorn is one of the last great active composers bumming around our modern century, if you come across his stuff give it a listen!
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