It’s the most wonderful time of the year… let’s go!
I’ll start this off with an explanation of the why and the how…
Why? Not really sure, but since I was in high school I have taken a couple of weeks at the end of each year to determine the greatest albums I had heard over those last 52 weeks. Someday I might post those lists, which date back to 2000, but for now if you don’t follow me on Spotify they are shrouded in secrecy, which is probably best. Yes, this is subjective AF: to paraphrase the great Jeffrey Lebowski, this project is, just, like, my opinion, man.
As for the “how”; well, that is pretty straightforward. I am a new music junkie, combing the internets and Spotify each week to expose myself to as much tuneage as is feasible for someone with a job and a modicum of a social life, while still trying to listen to, oh I don’t know, all of the other non-new music that I love. This year I have listened to over 300 brand-spankin’ new LPs or EPs, and of that group I ended up noting (and typically writing about here) 95 of them along the way as worthwhile. Of these I grabbed the 30 best and over the last couple slow weeks I have painstakingly dissected them, studied them, and turned them all up to 11 to decide which were the ten greatest.
Two rules: My current definition of “worthiness” is any album with at least five songs that I deemed listenable in perpetuity – or better said, saved to my master Spotify playlist. Also, career spanning boxsets like Tom Petty’s or Chris Cornell’s, and live albums like Neil Young’s or Midnight Oil’s are generally not included here no matter how great, as they are not technically new music. Arbitrary, yes, but these rules -however capricious – are totes necessary for my organizational sanity.
At the end of this three-post exercise I will post my entire list of 95 worthy albums, and I trust that their range will surprise some who now me personally and probably leave many wondering why their favorite is missing. Or at least I hope a few people give a shit enough to have those types of thoughts.
Oh, here are the links to the 2017 list, dating back to the site’s inception last December. Yes, I am shortening it up for 2018 (after this self-indulgent first post intro).
For now, here are the ten best that didn’t make the top ten, my Honorable Mentions. These are all terrific records, and are listed by alpha and not by any rank. My commentary for each will be very brief, as I have written about these albums before. Links to those earlier reviews as well as the records on Spotify are included for your reading/listening pleasure.
Honorable Mentions: #11-20 Records of 2018
A Perfect Circle – Eat the Elephant
Gloomy, dark, brooding, political, angry, and seething. This is very, very far removed from their incredibly popular debut 20 years ago. It has its weak moments, but is a very satisfying listen, particularly “Talk Talk” and the title-track opener. Take the bite, take the stab, take the swing…
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/3Jr1RhAyndBxtyi8rJs3Op?si=QRcVuC8LT4uI33ps3VT1hA
Caamp – Boys
Originally released as two, six-song EPs, when put together this is a terrific album and great follow up to their loose and subtle debut. Enjoy “26”, “Common Man”, and “Autumn Leaves” in particular.
Spotify album links: https://open.spotify.com/album/4kBUtVFzM9mrVZEtr0f56v?si=Fm6hPP6FRAOwRLr0GtJeCQ
Ice Cube – Everythang’s Corrupt
This is the best rap album of the year as far as I am concerned, although admittedly I am a Cube disciple. It sounds simultaneously fresh and like 1994, and I can’t get enough. If you are a MAGA kind of person, skip over the first track, although it is one of the finest here. Enjoy the range of vibes and funny rhymes scattered through this woke and serious album. Cube’s still got it, my friends.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/0EVgPaKOC8o9JFVpKLMSoz?si=gxHGHFIYQ9Gs70p91X6UAw
Gregory Alan Isakov – Evening Machines
Never boring, yet consistently subtle and hushed, this album is chock full of earworms that may take a few listens to appreciate the subtleties at work. A tremendous work that damn near made the top ten. “Dark, Dark, Dark” and “Berth” are two of my favorite tracks from the year (spoiler alert to a future post).
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5K7PZiOlAn8sxxhh0QTFuJ?si=0YTWC1qoQYSdFhaEb4xKDg
Mt. Joy – Mt. Joy
Killer debut from this band that is hard to describe and sort of all over the soft rock/folk map. They lived up to their studio recordings when I saw them live earlier this year, and you can see them at Treefort VIII (if you are in Boise this March, that is)…
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5h9FO7QRZMcrcnSYvihQ01?si=iXz2FN-vRy6ufcAqCa6bSg
John Prine – Tree of Forgiveness
Quite the record for a man in his 70s, the soon to be Hall of Famer gives us one of his best yet. “Lonesome Friends of Science” is as melancholy as “When I Get to Heaven” is irreverent and fun.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/13UwfQZqne7ZQIkUZsAPLg?si=6dN0AvTKRYaqQ1OrLuxmsA
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – Years
Sarah and her backing country band are a brand new flavor for me, and thus there is no review from this April release. Suffice to say this Treefort discovery is one I am anxious to see live. Sarah’s honky-tonk twang is borderline ridiculous and the songs are absolutely drenched in the themes of good old country/western music: heartache, loss, booze, etc. Fantastic stuff, although maybe not as good as their debut, Sidelong. Check out “Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t” and “New Ways to Fail” for proof.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/11HcrLOFCg1LKkLub2u91X?si=HukEz0dNS4mWEXtsocVV8g
Slothrust – The Pact
Much has already been typed here about this band and this record… “Double Down”, “Walk Away” and “New Red Pants” are all quite different and all amazing.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/07665OyRU6m8ZjRCjHIXVa?si=oTFKCQoZR4SWKDv8bYHq0w
Jeff Tweedy – WARM
The Wilco frontman finally releases a true solo effort and guess what? It is thoughtful, dark, slow, a bit smug, and totally awesome. “Let’s Go Rain” is somewhat happy considering its message, and “I Know What It’s Like”, well, isn’t – but they’re both great tracks on a tremendous album.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2XTPulCL6EUx1thyJPnlmj?si=pb755rdyRMmiCfVReDwxUg
Jack White – Boarding House Reach
Although this doesn’t live up to his first two solo efforts (which were #1 and #3 albums of 2012 and 2014, respectively), it does find our trusty Jack White III continuing his arc of experimentation, sometimes to the point of annoyance. The genius is still there, but there is enough pretention and what I perceive as intentional sabotage on a few of these songs to prevent this being labeled another masterpiece.
However, “Over and Over” and “What’s Done is Done” are among his best solo compositions. He’s thinking about starting a corporation, and wants to know who’s with him!?!?? Oh, and “welcome to… everything you’ve ever learned… brought to you by… welcome to … everything you’ve ever learned” is a terrific intro to “Everything You’ve Ever Learned”.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/6btUx9G2BPajQ7P6mpTxId?si=0Fp6BtPoSdGGTYJrqxWIPw