The halfway point of this list is where we start to get into the truly excellent, A-grade stuff. I’m fairly stingy about giving out A’s, so it’s actually a little surprising that I gave that distinction to just over 50 albums over the course of the decade (and retroactively, in a few cases), averaging about five such records per year.
As I did with my “Best of the Tenny Tweens” list, I thought it’d be interesting to break this list down by geographic location, and see which places the artists represented most commonly come from. Here’s what I came up with.
Here are the albums that I had the toughest time making it all the way through in 2018. At the top of the list are the merely mediocre records that I almost wanted to rescue from the “dishonorable” pile, but that just didn’t have enough good to outweigh the bad. As you get further down, the list gets more and more abysmal, to the point where I can’t even come up with a track highlight to make a case for why it’s not all bad.
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.
Artist: Owl City Album: Cinematic Year: 2018 Grade: C
In Brief: Somewhere within this hodgepodge of bland personal anecdotes and ill-advised bits of genre-hopping, are a small handful of truly imaginative synthpop songs that remind me of why I once risked the scorn of fellow critics to proclaim that I actually liked Owl City. While sifting through 15 songs (and 3 alternate versions!) to find those rare gems is generally not a delightful experience, this album might still be a step up from Mobile Orchestra.
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.
It’s funny how I can look back at some of these mixes that I made a decade ago, and find unintended recurring themes that I might not have been conscious of when I was first putting them together. There’s definitely some surface angst in several of these tracks that reflected conflicts I was dealing with, but what I don’t think I realized was how many of these songs discussed secrets that people kept, personal failings that made them ashamed of themselves, frustrations over situations they couldn’t control. So there’s a sense of catharsis in several of these songs as they compel the listener to bring what is hidden out into the light, to remember that the people who truly love them see their virtues first instead of dwelling on their failings, and ultimately to know when to let go of something that is too big to control, and leave it in the hands of God. I’ve never been very good at any of that, but the fact that I picked a lot of these songs must have been an indication that I was at least trying.