In Brief: Whether it’s electrified country-rock, twangy folk, or a down-tempo piano ballad, Cash’s voice is as warm and reassuring as ever throughout this album, and her songwriting remains as intriguing as ever. This is more of a subdued record than a flashy, genre-bending one, but it’s a smartly crafted one with some deeply felt joys and pains behind its songs.
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.
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.
Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Rosanne Cash, The Lone Bellow, Muse, Crowder, Fleet Foxes, Esperanza Spalding, Mumford & Sons, P.O.D., Chvrches, Kevin Max, and My Brightest Diamond.
I’ve decided to start listing a rundown at the end of the month, of whatever I listened to during that time that was newly released, or at least new to me. For the first installment, I’ll give my brief impressions of the latest releases from Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Derek Webb, Chvrches, Haim, Owel, Rosanne Cash, and Switchfoot. Full reviews to follow on most of these in the coming months…
What I remember most when I listen to this set of songs from the fall of 2006 is moving and starting anew. After spending a year or so in the apartment we’d inherited when Tim moved out, Christine and I decided to finally look for our own place together. The location we ended up with was convenient in that it was close to the school Christine was working at, and halfway between my job and church, right off of Mission and Granada in Alhambra. The downside was that it was right by the train tracks, and the building would gently shake when the trains went by in the middle of the night. It took some adjustment, but it truly felt like our own place for the first time in our relationship.
In with the New:
Future of Forestry
My memories of the summer of 2006 are largely dominated by fond remembrance of our first trip back to Hawaii since we got married. Visiting family, and friends who were now starting to feel like family, made Oahu seem more and more like a second home, though there was still plenty left for me to discover. The second part of the trip was to the Big Island, which was a first for both of us. Despite how much I had enjoyed Kauai and Maui on past trips, the Big Island quickly emerged as my favorite part of Hawaii, due to the scenic and biological diversity on display – it was like an entire continent in miniature. This still stands out as one of my all-time favorite trips.
In with the New:
Rock Kills Kid
House of Heroes
Leigh Nash (as a solo artist – appears previously with Sixpence None the Richer)
Out with the Old:
It Was Worth a Try:
Thom Yorke (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Radiohead)
One of my favorite memories from the early years of our marriage is all the places Christine, who was still relatively new to Southern California and seeing it through different eyes than I always had, found for us to explore together. For some reason I seem to romanticize the idea of exploration, of filling in a previously unknown spot on the map that most of the people you know might not know anything about, and sharing that new experience together. Ten years later, I still haven’t lost my excitement about that, but new places like those have become harder to find, so I tend to look back with fond nostalgia at the “innocence” of finding out for the first time that some of these beautiful places were tucked away, far from the typical overcrowded tourist spots.
In with the New:
The Violet Burning
Belle & Sebastian
Out with the Old: Shaun Groves The Corrs Charlie Hall Dean Gray