Since I was busy for most of this month writing up my Top 100 albums list for the last decade, I decided to put a moratorium on listening to new releases until I was done with that project, so that I could completely immerse myself in re-listening to all of those favorite album candidates. I made exceptions for newly released singles and whatever else Spotify’s Release Radar brought to my attention each week, just for the purpose of bookmarking new releases in order to listen to them in full when my project was done. At times it was hard to resist the temptation – especially since 2 of the artists from my lists put out new albums this month, another three surprises me with EPs, and also a member of one of the bands from my list put out a new collaborative album with a band I’d never heard of. So most of this list of new stuff I’ve been listening to for only the last week or so, ironically, covers artists I’ve already talked about in some capacity this month, with a few bands at the bottom of the list that are genuinely new to me.
Also, I realize I’ve got a slew of recommendations from others to get to, both in terms of favorite albums of theirs from 2019 that I slept on or just plain wasn’t aware of, and in terms of standout albums they’ve given kudos to from throughout the last decade that have piqued my interest for one reason or another. I’ll start on that daunting to-do list in February!
Meanwhile, here are my first impressions of the latest from Colony House, The Innocence Mission, Everything Everything, Switchfoot, John Reuben, Stabbing Westward, Sean Watkins & The Bee Eaters, Wolf Parade, and Bombay Bicycle Club.
And now, finally, it’s time to get started with the Proper Top 100 list! A lot of truly excellent music came out in the 2010s, to the point where narrowing it down to the most deserving albums required a mental refresher on well over 200 albums that I had enjoyed during the last ten years. It’s taken me longer than expected to get this list off to a proper start, due to a bit of a counting mishap when I was choosing my finalists, resulting in some painful last-minute cuts when I realized that I had put more than 20 albums in my lowest tier out of the 100. But that’s all settled now, and I’ve got my list broken into 5 parts, during which I’ll take a look back at 20 great albums per installment.
Everything in this first section of the list would score a B+ if I reviewed it today, so it’ll be a little ways up the list before we get to the truly amazing stuff. But even within this initial batch of 20 albums, there are tons of fond memories that I get from going back and revisiting the vast majority of the tracks on each of these – and in a few cases, new memories still being formed, as I discovered a few of these albums for the first time during a huge back catalogue binge I embarked on last year.
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.
Artist: The Innocence Mission Album: Sun on the Square Year: 2018 Grade: B
In Brief: Though it took a few listens to get over the initial “every song sounds the same” impression I had of this album, there’s more diversity in the color, tone, and instrumental textures to be found on the group’s tenth album than I can remember there being on those old Innocence Mission albums I listened to well over a decade ago. Now that the modest little vignettes in a number of these hopeful, innocent little folk songs have begun to sink into my subconscious, they seem to offer sublime glimpses of eternity despite their almost ephemeral nature.
The summer of 2003 was more than a bit tumultuous. Christine had to move twice, and between that and her struggle to find a job, our relationship was getting a bit frayed. She didn’t have a lot to keep her busy without a job, and that caused friction in terms of how we wanted to spend our spare time (I wanted some time to myself, she wanted to spend it all together). But we did still manage to have fun despite the stress and uncertainty.
In with the New: