Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2018: Favorite Albums (and Honorable Mentions)

This is the list I look forward to writing the most each year, and yet that I seem to always agonize over until New Year’s Eve arrives and I have to click the “Publish” button and freeze these opinions in time. Coming up with a good, solid list of album recommendations at the end of every year seems to be a harder and harder task as time goes by, owing to a lot of artists seeming to lose interest in the album format, perhaps putting out excellent singles or EPs, but with the full-length LP becoming almost an afterthought. Even some of the top entries here were records I got to know at least half of as pre-release singles, or as a collection of EPs, before the full listening experience was made available, and thus I regard them more as strong compilations of songs from the latest phase of an artist’s career rather than as cohesive “albums” in the traditional sense. Still, a few holdouts are doing great things with the LP format, making a case for why it’s worth roughly 40 to 60 minutes of a listener’s time to take in a collection of songs in the order presented. I think that’s an art form that is still worth pursuing, even if the state of the music industry makes it an uphill battle to keep doing so.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2018: Favorite Songs

First on my to-do list as the year comes to a close is to list the individual songs that inspired and entertained me the most in 2018. Some of these may have come out in 2017, or in a few extreme cases, as singles in 2016 that didn’t make it onto an actual album release until more recently. Either way, it was all new to me this year, or else I heard it in late 2017 and I had a belated reaction to it. Explanations and video/audio links are given for the Top 30 – for the rest, if you’re curious, just click the review links where provided to learn more.

As always, many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2018 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.

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Calexico – The Thread that Keeps Us: Love in the Age of the Extremes

2018_Calexico_TheThreadThatKeepsUs

Artist: Calexico
Album: The Thread that Keeps Us
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: What this album lacks in special guests, it makes up for with its slightly more aggressive and exploratory sound. Calexico still balances their dusky desert folk, indie rock, Latin, and jazz influences pretty well, with this album coming out a little stronger on the “rock” side of the spectrum, but not alarmingly so. It’s a welcome change after the sleepier vibe of their last few records.

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What Am I Listening To? – January 2018

The new year brings with it a smattering of projects I missed out on over the course of last year – mostly EPs and a few projects that are still in progress. I’m always hungry for new music, but especially after I’ve spent most of December ruminating on the year that came before.

Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Belle & Sebastian, Animal Collective, Elbow, Portugal. The Man, Brooke Waggoner, The Nor’easters, Dia Frampton, Peter Bradley Adams, Spoon, Paramore, and Calexico.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2015: Favorite Albums (and Honorable Mentions)

Here’s the cream of the crop, folks – the list of albums that captivated me most in the year 2015. While some of these picks are likely about as predictable as the likelihood of a YouTube comments section devolving into a vicious political flamewar, there are a few cases here where I genuinely surprised myself by falling in love with an artist or even a genre that I had previously decided was “just not my thing”. I hope the music that comes out in 2016 challenges me in similar ways.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2015: Favorite Songs

The first order of business as 2015 comes to a close is to sift through all of my favorite songs that I first heard this year (or perhaps late last year, and it just took me a little longer to appreciate them) and attempt to put them in order, which as usual starts to get a bit silly below the top 30 or so. Music videos and some live performances are embedded for that first chunk of the list. As I’ve done in previous years, I’ve also got a Spotify playlist that covers a lot of these, limited to a song per artist and more in chronological order of when I discovered them.

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Calexico – Edge of the Sun: I’m not from here, I’m not from there.

2015_Calexico_EdgeoftheSun

Artist: Calexico
Album: Edge of the Sun
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: As always, I enjoy the Latin music influence and the “desert noir” style. The numerous guest appearances make this one feel like a real community effort. But there’s still the pesky problem of too many “just OK” songs in the track listing, compounded by the presence of easily superior material among the bonus tracks.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2013: Favorite Songs

It’s time to kick off my yearly obsession with counting things that it really makes no sense to put in order. More detailed write-ups on the full lengths albums that captivated me this year are to follow, but for now, here’s a haphazard list I’ve compiled of 100 songs that moved me this year… some physically, some emotionally, some both.

For those who’d like to follow along and listen to some of my picks, I’ve compiled a playlist (limited to one song per artist, because it’s crazy long enough already), that hits a lot of the year’s highlights, in roughly the order I came to discover them.
https://play.spotify.com/user/1297881374/playlist/22zq8wfpybMfROtcKPQTct
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