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.
Wow, June was a crazy month for new music. Probably because there were five Fridays. A bunch of stuff I was looking forward to dropped on June 1, and then again just yesterday on June 29. Because I prefer to have listened to something a bare minimum of twice before mentioning it here, and just for the sake of my overall sanity, I’ve decided to punt a few of those June 29 releases to July, so that I can focus more on the few that I did manage to get to thus far.
Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Sucré, Owl City, Neko Case, Father John Misty, The Flaming Lips, Dave Matthews Band, Arthur Buck, Kevin Max, Mike Shinoda, Florence + The Machine, Jim James, and Katie Herzig.
Artist: The New Pornographers Album: Brill Bruisers Year: 2014 Grade: B
In Brief: Easily their most fun record since Twin Cinema almost 10 years ago. I love how energetic this record is and how the shared lead vocals on several tracks add to the sense of camaraderie. There might be one or two clunkers, but amidst 13 tracks, they’ve got a little room to fiddle around.
If you were to listen to this mix that I made in the summer of 2009, and take the songs as literal indicators of what I was going through at the time, you might assume that I had gone on a post-apocalyptic road trip, gotten lost at sea, enlisted in a foreign war, and became very, very convinced that I was going to die soon. None of those things actually happened, but the music told such vivid stories that I felt intrigued, even downright moved, by what a lot of the characters in these songs were going through. I remember this as a generally happy phase of my life, and I’m immediately transported back to that happy vibe by the opening songs on Disc One. But I was having some issues with insomnia at the time, as well as a resulting loss of appetite and general malaise that followed it most mornings. The final songs on the second disc are the ones that most honestly address that feeling of knowing I wasn’t in the healthiest place physically, and wanting to reach out for help and make some genuine changes to keep it from getting worse.
There’s a lot of war, betrayal, decay, and destruction that plays out over the course of these two discs. You wouldn’t guess it right away from a lot of the up-tempo song selections, nor from the downright worshipful songs that bookend the set, and certainly not from the lovely scenery taken from a few of my favorite hikes that got chosen for the the cover art. This didn’t come from some weird place of turmoil in my own life – either it was a reflection on conflicts going on in the world at the time, or else I just sort of realize a theme was pulling itself together in the individual songs I was enjoying around that time, and I put them together in such a way that it really emphasized the common thread between a lot of them. There’s also some weird stuff about astronauts and aliens here and there… and a few songs that were chosen to commemorate an unusually warm Southern California spring. So it’s not all dark clouds and disasters and bullets and bombs and blood. But yeah… I guess it’s mostly that.
In with the New:
The Reign of Kindo
Sara Watkins (as a solo artist – appears previously with Nickel Creek)
Out with the Old:
Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts