#80: Tracyanne & Danny – Tracyanne & Danny
Camera Obscura and Crybaby – the combination no one asked for but made us all feel a little guilty for that. The very watchword of indie soul.
#79: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
Funk-rock, but not in the accepted meaning of the term; live breakbeats; psychedelic guitar work. Stopping to try to figure out where the hell we’re going, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it? Shaddap and swallow this. Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
#78: Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
If you grew up in the 1990s, a lot of the indie rock today will be strangely familiar. If you grew up in the 1990s, Bark Your Head Off, Dog sounds like an album that you maybe forgot about until just now. It’s an album out of time, one that fits in just as well today as it ever would.
#77: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – Black Times
In which the youngest son of Fela Kuti both continues his father’s tradition of art-as-protest (especially in the face of endlessly corrupt Nigerian politicians) and reminds us of something fundamentally vital to the 21st Century: if you want the revolution to succeed, make it danceable.
#76: Lucy Dacus – Historian
It’s well-written, 90s-indebted crunchy indie rock, sure. Lots of that out there these days, as you can plainly see. Lucy Dacus manages to climb above the rest by having the sort of sonorous voice that cuts through everything and makes itself the focus. It’s pretty much exactly why I like Mitski, too.
#75: Turnstile – Time & Space
Turnstile are hardcore in the vein of Biohazard and Life Of Agony, which means they’re a natural fit for Roadrunner. More importantly, though, the Baltimore band shows on their major label debut a strong willingness to push the envelope on sound – to break down, to add in elements of funk, ghosts of 311 ska, and weird grocery store music from the ’70s.
#74: Frigs – Basic Behaviour
Basic Behaviour is pop music to listen to as you’re drowning in a swamp and time is slowing down to the point where relativity becomes a concern. It’s a Toronto record – but I repeat myself.
#73: Superchunk – What A Time To Be Alive
In the mid-1990s, who would have pegged Superchunk to be a still-vital band in the indie world? Yet here we are in 2018, and the band is following up 2013’s also-great I Hate Music with their eleventh, potentially best studio album. What a time to be alive.
#72: Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus
A gritty short story collection masquerading as an album. Ezra Furman takes the sounds of the early 1980s, fishes them out of a dumpster, keeps the tape snarls and the VHS warping, and calls it a style.
#71: Hookworms – Microshift
SO, despite their strident feminist politics, it turns out that one of the members of Hookworms, singer Michael Johnson, is allegedly an abusive piece of shit. So this will be the last Hookworms album. For everyone involved with the record who isn’t MJ, this is the pinnacle of the band’s ability to phase psychedelic rock into thumping, modern indie pop seamlessly, like a more lysergic Tame Impala.
#70: The Soft Moon – Criminal
Industrial just the way you remember it: abrasive, indebted to post-punk, disturbing, obsessed with childhood abuse issues, and voiced by a dead ringer for early Trent Reznor.
#69: Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
The band is Texas by birth but global by the grace of God. Driven by Laura Lee’s funky-ass bass lines, the trio criss-cross the world to find inspirations for their psych-tinged guitar explorations. Con Todo El Mundo lingers in the interplay of Indian and Persian music traditions, creating a sultry arid affair that hangs like smoke in the humid summer night air.
#68: tUnE-yArDs – I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life
Merill Garbus’ life as an Oakland DJ has started creeping into her work; I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life is a much more electronic-influenced record than her previous, clattering Caribbean records ever were. While the manic, off-the-wall energy is still present in parts, this is a much more noir, clubby version of tUnE-yArDs, and it feels a little more emotionally effective for that.
#67: Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
Don’t let Uncle Tomye steal the thunder here: this is Kid Cudi’s redemption from a streak of truly awful albums. Also with a great spot here: Yasiin Bey, formerly Mos Def, whom I’m hyper curious about regarding his thoughts on Kanye lately.
#66: Towkio – WWW.
Chicago had such a hot year that even the B-list is putting out career albums.
#65: Richard Swift – The Hex
Swift completed The Hex in June of 2018; a month later he was dead, leaving this spacious, haunted recording as his final statement in the world. Like Jason Molina five years ago, it was a crippling alcohol addiction that did him in; like Jason Molina, his legacy lasts well past his mortality.
#64: Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning
A last minute burst of vitality from a band I’d written off after 2017’s boring-as-hell Life Without Sound. It also isn’t a dead ringer for their second and third album, which means that we should just consider this the proper followup to Here And Nowhere Else and forget last year even happened.
#63: St. Vincent – MassEducation
What better way to cap off a bombastic, pop-maximalist record like Masseduction than a stripped-down piano take on those same songs, but in a different order? OK, OK, but hear me out: The War On Drugs is fine, I guess, but bookending the last season of Bojack Horseman with the full and spare versions of “Los Ageless” would have killed.
#62: Wild Nothing – Indigo
I’ve always considered Wild Nothings to be a singles band more than anything else, but Indigo is the first time they’ve really put in an effort to make the whole album as captive and entrancing as their radio work.
#61: Szun Waves – New Hymn To Freedom
London has a very old and very famous jazz scene and a very old and very famous psychedelic scene and groups like Szun Waves exist to find the bridge between the two, with devastating effect.
Onward to the Best of 2018, #40-#21