2018: A Wondrous Year In Review
2018 was a very interested year musically. Lots of hype, both good and bad (Lil’ Wayne), deaths (most notably the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin), lots of releases, once again both good and bad, though I would venture to say that the highs of this past year were exceptionally high, and the lows, were lower than past years and in more abundance. 2018 saw the world still under Drake’s untalented spell (though rest assured you will not find any of that nonsense here), brought David Byrne out of hiding, and saw the drug culture rape and pillage hip-hop as we currently no it. With the music this year being more overwhelmingly interesting rather than actually good, we have put together a list of the most fascinating albums of 2018.
Both Pusha’s breakthrough and yet somehow a comeback album of sorts. After spending years away from the mic while basically running Kanye’s G.O.O.D. MUSIC label, he came back in 2018 with the world in mind. From the controversial album cover feature Whitney Houston’s drug riddled bathroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel the night of her untimely death - to the feud with Drake. Pusha came back this year and took no prisoners. This overly produced homage to Gangsta Rap of yesteryear stands as this years most rewarding listen….while unlikely that T will ever be able to follow this up accurately or even remotely come close….we will always have Daytona, and T will always have 2018.
How do you follow up an album that is considered one of if not the greatest metal album of all time..? Naturally you wait 15 years and hope the heat has died down. The Sciences is essentially Dopesmoker volume 2. More or less it is the same album, only modernized and about a million bong rips deeper. The sound is heavy, the guitar work is inspired, the lyrical content and subject matter borderline on science-fiction yet stray just far enough away to not be considered prog. The Sciences serves as Dopesmoker 15 years later and wiser, and for the more than casual listener 20 years better.
Side Note: The supporting tour was one of the absolute best of the year.
Colter Wall Songs of the Plains
No sophomore slump here. With Walls second major label release, his third overall, he seemed to hit his stride...though to be fair that does remain to be seen and only time will tell and all that other cliche jazz...with Songs…. Wall hired a band, the same band he brought on tour with him in support of his self-titled album from 2016, and took them into the studio. The result is a Canadian’s take on Americana. Let us get that straight, this is a Canadian, like Canadian Canadian, and he felt that he could tame America’s truest and purest form of music.
Personal Note: This was my favorite album of 2018.
Where has David Byrne been for the last 15 years? Aside from doing a few one-off collaborations (most notably with St. Vincent) the man has essentially been missing in action musically. But in early 2018 Byrne announce that not only was he going to drop a new album; his first real solo album since 2004’s Grown Backwards, and it serves as not only his most interesting and exciting solo release, but it will go down as his best post-Talking Heads release.
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
had Deafheaven started their career with Ordinary Corrupt human Love I would be writing this from a totally different point of view and chances are haling this as the best album of 2018. However, that is not the case. If Sunbather and New Bermuda did not exist, sure, but in the world we live in they do exist, and it makes this album, though they hinted at this direction on both of those prior releases, feel like a complete and total slap in the face. We all knew they drew influence from more mainstream US artists, but did that mean they had to go full-tilt boogie into it? No. But did it pay back? Possibly. The band might have broke even with this release so to speak. You can hear inflections of the sound and band that once was, but you know that what was and what is can never coexist together. This was a turning point, and a very good one, that must be stated. Was the album up to par with their past releases, absolutely not, but this change in sound, if done right could bring black metal and dark-wave to the forefront of rock music.
Evocative yet unobtrusive in the same way that a effective film score can be if done correctly. Minimalism in nature yet bombastic in the way the classical styling of Bach can be. While Nils has been doing more or less the same thing since day one, there seems to be a bit of a departure here with All Melody. The title says it all, there is structure here, and not that there wasn't any before, it is just more controlled and prominent here. Minimalism done un-materialistically. What a concept. What a moving record.
Joshua Hedley Mr. Jukebox
Mr. Jukebox is about as close to traditional Country music as we as fans get these days. Doused in not only Bakersfield, California circa 1971’s sound but also in style. Bridging the gap between Don Williams and Buck Owens and doing it in style. Hedley’s major debut plays like an ole timey Honky-Tonk on the verge of implosion. The band on stage is taking to much liberty in pushing the limits of traditional country and the only thing saving them is the chain link fence serving as the only precipice between patron and player and the tension feels phenomenal.
The thing about Kanye West albums is what do you say? The man gets praise for breathing into a microphone, because he knows how to create publicity. As a society we are obsessed with train wrecks and shit-shows. And West is the greatest publicity stunt ever created. But that in itself makes his body of work so fascinating. It’s hard to take him serious and at the same time you want to believe everything coming out of the mans mouth….it doesn’t help that as a musician/producer he is undoubtedly brilliant. Every year he drops a new record he makes the best of lists at the end of the year, well this is NOT a best of list. While I would personally take this over that monsterly overrated My Dark Twisted Fantasy, the album as a whole is more interesting than it is good. Sure most of the tracks live up to the authors other body of work, but with Kanye you have take everything with a grain of salt. Was this yet another publicity stunt? It had been several years since we heard from Kanye, and between the TMZ/White House/”I have mental issues, no I haven’t been to a doc to get meds” thing makes it feel like it was all a concept. From the somber album cover shot somewhere in Wyoming where he decided he could be alone and focus on recording this album to the choppy yet over production the album has no idea what is going on yet at times manages to be some of his most heartfelt work.
Car Seat Headrest
A re-recorded and re-released version of the groups major debut, both with better production and wiser, tighter, more cohesive musicianship and delivery. The nerve of an artist who finally hit there breakthrough only 2 years prior to re-record and album in their cannon rather than put out a new body of work. Feels both bold, and growth stunting. But man, unlike most records throughout recorded history that have been remade to hit a newer younger audience this was done from pure perfectionism. Mission accomplished.
Year of the Snitch
If you are old enough to remember one of he best mobster movies of all time, Casino. Chances are if you remember that movie or if you have ever seen it, than you remember the scene with the shop class vice-grip which is used on a human who stole money, or at least attempted to do so. While constantly pushing the limits of their sound and all that goes into it, Death Grips managed to make an album that sounds the way that scene in Casino looks.
Piano & a Microphone 1983
Growing up a closeted homosexual, Prince and his music was something I have NEVER identified with or related to. But I guess in some strange way I did. Can you imagine being me in high school in 2004 defending myself to my peers that I was going to get the chance to see the man live on his first tour in nearly a decade? Wearing purple to school that day because the ticket literally said “you will not be admitted to the show without purple attire. It wasn’t pretty. I have never lived the life he sang about, or hosted the women he did. And certainly not while wearing high heels and a g-string on stage. But somehow this ultra-sexual, gender bending androgynes short man in heels with guitar skill to make Carlos Santana blush and Hendrix rise from the grave managed to give strength to a generation of not only gays like myself but to those who were just outside the realms of the click. It was outside music in the most accessible of forms. We all wanted to go “Uptown” with him where everyone was free. And here after his death...we find a whole generation of people who once loathed the man falling in love with his music and claiming to worship at his musical alter like some sort of false prophet. But we also see a younger generation realizing who wrote all those songs their mother would get drunk on a Friday night and sing and dance to subconsciously causing these children to fall in love with the sound of Purple. And that is what is conflicting here. Prince was private and when he spoke of the ‘Vault’ and all the music he had locked away there he wasn’t bluffing. He did not want this to come out, and he will not want anything in the future to come out because he did not finish it. Here in this intimate setting of just the royal one, his mic, and his Baby Grand, it feels wrong and almost voyeuristic. Hearing him moan “Mary Don’t You Weep” feels intrusive and like I am some sort of musical fetish Peeping-Tom. I absolutely loathe thought of this album...But my Lord, do I ever love the sound of it. Alone in his home studio on a night most likely now in hindsight was full of drugs and this was his escape and way to wind down the night. This demos paved the way to many of his classics that were just around the corner. If you listened to one album in 2018, it should have been this.
Review by Shane Morton | Shane@wiredwithmusic.com