The Best Albums of 2018

I have 86 albums released in 2018.

Here was the break down by genre with my favorite album from 2018 in that genre:

  1. Indie Rock (25 albums) – Titus Andronicus’ A Productive Cough
  2. Emo (16 albums) – Camp Cope’s How To Socialize & Make Friends
  3. Indie Pop (15 albums) – Warm Thoughts’ I Went Swimming Alone
  4. Punk (10 albums) – Spanish Love Songs’ Schmaltz
  5. Post Rock (5 albums) – Elephant Gym’s Angle
  6. Singer Songwriter (5 albums) – Damien Jurado’s The Horizon Just Laughed
  7. Electronic (3 albums) – Mid Air Thief’s Crumbling
  8. Hip Hop (2 albums) Saba’s Care For Me
  9. Ska (2 albums) – The Interrupters’ Fight The Good Fight
  10. Insurgent Country (2 albums) – Jeff Tweedy’s Warm
  11. Metal (1 album) – Repsire’s Denouement

The following 32 albums were all extraordinary and would make excellent additions to your collection.

  1. Camp Cope’s How to Socialize and Make Friends (Run for Cover) (Emo) – 9.655

2. Warm Thoughts’ I Went Swimming Alone (Asian Man) (Indie Pop) – 9.576

3. Damien Jurado’s The Horizon Just Laughed (Secretly Canadian) (Singer Songwriter) – 9.362

4. The Cardboard Swords’ Once More, There Is Nothing Left To Figure Out (Count Your Lucky Stars) (Emo) – 9.356

5. Titus Andronicus’ A Productive Cough (Merge Records) (Indie Rock) – 9.306

6. Tiny Moving Parts’ Swell (Triple Crown Records) (Emo) – 9.291

7. Spanish Love Songs’ Schmatlz (A-F Records) (Emo) – 9.247

8. Retirement Party’s Somewhat Literate (Counter Intuitive) (Indie Rock) – 9.217

9. Hot Mulligan’s Pilot (No Sleep) (Emo) – 9.209

10. John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness (Oh Boy) (Singer Songwriter) – 9.128

11. Gulfer’s Dog Bless (Topshelf Records) (Emo) – 9.111

12. The Sea and Cake’s Any Day (Thrill Jockey) (Indie Pop) – 9.095

13. Weller’s Weller (Tiny Engines) (Indie Pop) – 9.030

14. Restorations’ LP5000 (Tiny Engines) (Punk) – 9.022

15. Lemuria’s Recreational Hate (Asian Man) (Indie Pop) – 9.012

16. Carb on Carb’s For Ages (Black Wire) (Emo) – 9.009

17. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s Hope Downs (Sub Pop) (Indie Rock) -9.001

18. J. Mascis’ Elastic Days (Sub Pop) (Indie Pop) – 8.817

19. Just Friends’ Nothing But Love (Counter Intuitive) (Punk) – 8.792

20. The Interrupters’ Fight The Good Fight (Hellcat Records) (Ska) – 8.687

Fight the Good Fight

21. Mom Jeans’ Puppy Love (Counter Intuitive) (Emo) – 8.658

22. Worst Party Ever’s Japan (Bandcamp) (Emo) – 8.579

23. Dan P’s When We Were Fearless (Asian Man) (Ska) – 8.458

24. Elephant Gym’s Angle (Topshelf Records) (Post Rock) – 8.450

25. Cloud District’s Don’t Give Up, Skeleton (Bandcamp) (Emo) – 8.391

26. Doe’s Grow Into It (Topshelf Records) (Indie Rock) – 8.385

27. Mark Kozelek’s Mark Kozelek (Caldo Verde) (Singer Songwriter) – 8.360

Mark Kozelek: Mark Kozelek Album Review | Pitchfork

28. Lithics’ Mating Surfaces (Kill Rock Stars) (Indie Rock) – 8.346

29. Clearance’s At Your Leisure (Topshelf Records) (Indie Rock) – 8.336

30. Long Neck’s Will This Do? (Tiny Engines) (Indie Rock) – 8.313

31. El Ten Eleven’s Banker’s Hill (Topshelf Records) (Post Rock) – 8.284

32. Laura Jane Grace’s Bought To Rot (Bloodshot) (Punk) – 8.244

Music Streamers Make It Harder to Hold On (to) Hope

A friend of mine recently shared Stereogum’s Nate Rogers’ very interesting article, Why Is The Obscure B-Side “Harness Your Hopes” Pavement’s Top Song on Spotify? It’s complicated.

I was very surprised to read about the most played Pavement song. I was actually not familiar with the song.  I found this particularly interesting as I do consider myself a Pavement fan.   

As a bit of context, I have purchased 135 Pavement songs. I have bought all of their studio albums and the majority of their EPs.  I have purchased every Malkmus solo studio album.  I have every Silver Jews album.    I have The Real Feel from the Spiral Stairs. I have seen Pavement (or members in Pavement) perform countless times starting in the early the 90s.  

So, like I said, more than a casual fan. Yet, I don’t own or ever recall hearing Harness Your Hopes, the most played Pavement song on Spotify. This was truly puzzling.   

The article references similar analysis performed by Damon Kurkowski about the song “Strange”, a surprise most played song from his band Galaxie 500. Damon described his song “Strange” as a touch faster, louder, with a more regular backbeat and a more predictable song structure than most Galaxie 500 songs. There is no extended instrumental section, no unusually slow tempo or quiet dynamics present in other Galaxie 500 songs.

These data points peaked my interest enough to look up other artists that I knew well, artists that were big enough to have high play counts on Spotify and yet also favorites of mine.  And Pavement and Galaxie 500 are not alone in this abnormality.

Damien Jurado’s most played song on Spotify – Ohio (Filous remix). A song I not only do not own, but with no disrespect to the legendary Jurado and the sound engineer Filious I didn’t even like.  I will spare you the long version of the critique, but the remix robs the song of the sadness, the tempo and composition leave me confused instead of lingering in the emotion and feelings that Damien can summon like few others.   That said, this version probably plays better at parties.

Anyway, I digress.    The point is the number one played Jurado song on Spotify by a factor of 6 is a remix that doesn’t even sound like Jurado.

As you now might expect, every single artist’s top song that I looked at didn’t align with what I would consider a fanatics favorite song (at least this fanatic’s).

Damon and Nate site the introduction of defaulting Spotfiy’s “Auto Play” feature in 2017 as a driving factor to this anomaly. The “Auto Play” feature uses Spotify’s algorithms to select similar sounding songs.

This feature seems to have the (probably) unintended consequence of neutering the range of art, bringing everything to the middle. Ultimately, this leaves listeners with less interesting music. I really liked Damon’s comment that ” ‘Play Galaxie 500’ may really come to mean, ‘Play the song by Galaxie 500 that most resembles songs by others.'”

I also share the opinion that the music streaming services are slowly killing the album by focusing on singular tracks at the expense of the album. The combination of lessening the significance of the album and raising the importance of single tracks that sound similar to the broader population of music should be concerning to any music fan.

I for one want to celebrate the range, diversity, and originality from music. I don’t want the arts to gravitate to the mean. I applaud the courageous artists willing to push the boundaries with their art. I applaud even if at first listen or viewing I don’t get it. It is in these moments that I am given the opportunity to grow and expand my thinking.

I want to hold on to hope that our artists will be able to continue to be bold and create the new. As the title of the article suggests that streamers are certainly making it more difficult. We could soon be stuck in the middle, a middle where Hold On Hope is the most played Guided By Voices song.

#GoBuyARecord #SaveOurStages

Granite and Tumble’s Top 25 Compared To Other’s

Out of curiosity, I compared my top 25 albums of 2016 with some of the other popular lists to see how much overlap existed.   More overlap this year than any other with Pinegrove leading the way appearing on 7 other lists. My greatest overlap was four with the 45 from Brooklyn Vegan. This is still relatively small as most of these lists have significant overlap. As an example, Pitchfork and Spin share 36 of the same 50 with many in the same order.

  • One overlap with the 50 from Pitchfork (Pinegrove #46)
  • Three overlaps with the 50 from Spin (Pinegrove #48 , The Hotelier #31, and Joyce Manor #23)
  • Three overlaps with the 50 from Consequence of Sound (The Hotelier #43, Into It. Over It. #35, and Pinegrove #30)
  • Two overlaps with the 50 from Paste (Andrew Bird #24 and Pinegrove #14)
  • One overlap with the 50 from NPR (Pinegrove #38)
  • One overlap with the 15 from Jon Caramanica from the NY Times (Joyce Manor #11)
  • Two overlaps with the 50 from Stereogum (The Hotelier #39 and Pinegrove #24)
  • No overlaps with the 60 from GorillavsBear
  • Four overlaps with the 45 from Brooklyn Vegan (American Football #40, The Hotelier #22, Pinegrove #10, and Joyce Manor #6)
  • And 6 overlaps with the 20 best emo/punk albums from Brooklyn Vegan (John K Samson #20, Jeff Rosenstock #12, Into it. Over It #8, American Football #5, The Hotelier #3, and Joyce Manor #1)
  • Three overlaps with the 20 from Punknews (Joyce Manor #13, John K Samson #13, and Jeff Rosenstock #8)

The 25 Best Albums of 2016

I purchased 77 full length albums in 2016 and honestly there were not many misses. 2016 has been my favorite year of albums since 2010.

Using my album formula, here is the ranking of my favorite 25 albums in 2016.

1. Ceschi / Pat The Bunny’s Self Titled Split (DIY Bandits)  – 9.775

2.  Dowsing’s Okay (Asian Man) – 9.436

3. Pinegrove’s Cardinal (Run For Cover) – 9.395

4. John K. Samson’s Winter Wheat (Anti) – 9.331

5. Joyce Manor’s Cody (Epitaph) – 9.277

6. Andrew Birds’ Are You Serious (Universal) – 9.220

7. Brian Fallon’s Painkillers (Island) – 9.094

8. Into It. Over It.’s Standards (Triple Crown) – 9.067

9. Jeff Rosenstock’s Worry (Quote Unquote) – 9.004

10. Tiny Moving Parts’ Celebrate (Triple Crown) – 8.947

11. Arrows In Her’s It Tired Me All The Same (Broken World Media) – 8.922

12. Al Scorch’s Circle Round The Signs (Bloodshot) – 8.869

13. Real Friends’ The Home Inside My Head (Fearless) – 8.864

14. Worst Party Ever’s Anthology (Bandcamp) – 8.738

15. Kevin Devine’s Instigator (Procrastinate Music Traitors) – 8.672

16. Billy Bragg / Joe Henry’s Shine A Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad (Cooking Vinyl) – 8.487

17. Ramshackle Glory’s One Last Big Job (Self Released) – 8.467

18. Camp Cope’s Self Titled (Bandcamp) – 8.455 (re-released by Run for Cover in 2017)

19. Mom Jeans’ Best Buds (Counter Intuitive) – 8.213

20. The Hotelier’s Goodness (Revolver Music) – 8.175

21. I Love Your Lifestyle’s We Go Way Back (Dog Knights) – 8.047

22. American Football’s LP2 (Polyvinyl) – 7.899

23. Luke Winslow-King’s I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always (Bloodshot) – 7.778

24. Michael Jordan Touchdown Pass’ Strange Days (Bandcamp) – 7.692

25. Posture & the Grizzly’s I am Satan (Broken World Media) – 6.815

The Music of 2016

The end of the year is upon us again.   I do love this time of year.   You get a moment to step away from the routine and think.   I like to remember the great times of the year, while setting strategy and objectives for the new year.

I also love using my downtime to listen to a lot of music.    It truly is a labor of love going through all the music of a particular year – remembering and enjoying the standouts, listening and rating the ones that were forgotten, and discovering some new ones along the way.  For me there is pleasure and comfort in creating a sense of order to the massive quantity of music and memories into a single artifact that i can use as a catalyst to recall the best moments of a particular span of time.

For those not initiated, my lists are always for the period two years ago.    I believe that favorite album compilations should lag by two years for two primary time constraining reasons:  to address the staying power of the album and to acquire a suitable number of fine albums.

2016 was a great year.  I bought 77 albums and 957 songs from 2016.   2016 was my favorite year of music in 2010s. It was my 8th favorite year in the 66 years of music that i have rated. I will spend the next few days finishing the rating and selecting my tops from 2016.

Let me know your thoughts on the hits and misses.

Favorite Record Labels of 2014

Using my record label formula, here were my favorite labels of 2014

Here are some interesting stats on the list and year 2014

  • I bought music from 83 different labels and full LPs on 67 different labels.
  • I bought 2 or more LPs on 18 different label.   Bandcamp had the most with 9 LPs.   Count Your Lucky Stars had 7 LPs.
  • For labels with at least two LPs, Asian Man had the highest average song rating (4.24).
  • I bought EPs from 21 different labels.  Topshelf had the most with 4 EPs
  • I listened to Side One Dummy more than any other label.  I spent 33 hours listening to Side One Dummy records.
  • I listened to Topshelf songs on average the most times.   I listened to a Topshelf song 636 times.

Here is the list of favorites:

1. Triple Crown Records – 8.214 (3 artists, 2 LPs, 1 5-Star LP)

2. Side One Dummy – 7.583 (5 artists, 5 LPs, 2 4-Star LPs)

3. Sub Pop – 7.579 (2 artists, 2 LPs, 1 5-Star LP)

4. Topshelf – 7.513 (12 artists, 6 LPs. 2 4-Star LPs)

5. Count Your Lucky Stars – 7.472 (8 artists, 7 LPs, 3 4-Star LPs)

6. Bandcamp – 7.328 (19 artists, 9 LPs, 1 4-Star LP)

7. Tiny Engines – 7.278 (5 artists, 4 LPs, 2 4-Star LPs)

8. Epitaph – 7.246 (4 artists, 4 LPs, 3 4-Star LPs)

9. Self Released – 7.081 (4 artists, 3 LPs, 1 4-Star LP)

10. Asian Man – 6.985 (3 artists, 2 LPs, 2 4-Star LPs)

Favorite Songs of 2014

I followed my process from previous years for picking favorite songs.

  1. Song must have 5 stars (172 songs)
  2. Could not duplicate artist
  3. Pick the ones that stand out to me the most.

I really did my best to pair the list down (I cut 140 5-star songs), but still have 32 phenomenal songs.  The list of my favorite songs of 2014 is below in alphabetical order by artist.    All great songs, I hope you enjoy.   Let me know your thoughts on any standouts or omissions.

Antarctigo Vespucci’s I’m Giving Up On U2 from Soulmate Stuff (Quote Unquote)

Brave Bird’s T-Minus Grand Gesture from T-Minus Grand Gesture (County Your Lucky Stars)

The Bruce Lee Band’s The Constant from Everything Will be Alright, My Fiend (Asian Man)

Cayetana’s Black Hills from Nervous Like Me (Tiny Engines)

Collections of Colonies of Bee’s E (G) from Set (pVine)

Conor Oberst’s Double Life from Upside Down Mountain (Nonesuch)

Daniel Romano’s Strange Birds from When No One Was Looking (Bloodshot)

David Bazan’s Lost My Shape from Volume 1 (Self Released)

Frank Tuner’s The Corner from While No One Was Looking (Bloodshot)

Free Throw’s An Hour Pissed from Those Days Are Gone (Count Your Lucky Stars)

The Front Bottoms’ Lipstick Covered Magnet from Rose (Bar/None)

The Hotelier’s Housebroken from Home, Like Noplace is There (Tiny Engines)

J. Mascis’ Wide Awake from Tied To A Star (Sub Pop)

Joe Henry’s Lead Me On from Invisible Hour (Work Song)

Joie De Vivre’s Martin Park from Prawn/Joie De Vivre Split (Topshelf)

Kind of Like Spitting’s Tell Me That Isnt True from Professional Results (Artistic Integrity)

The Lawrence Arms’ The YMCA Down The Street From the Clinic from Metropole (Epitaph)

The Menzingers’ When You Died from Rented World (Epitaph)

Meridian’s Saints Paul and Ann from The Cathedral (Bandcamp)

Modern Baseball’s Rock Bottom from You’re Gonna Miss It All (Run For Cover)

Prawn’s Fracture from Prawn/Joie De Vivre Split (Topshelf)

Real Friends’ Short Song From Maybe This Place Is the Same And We’re Just Changing (Fearless)

Restorations’ Misprint from LP3 (Side One Dummy)

The Smith Street Band’s The Arrogance of the Drunk Pedestrian from Throw Me In The River (Side One Dummy)

Somos’ Letters From An Absent Father From Somos/Sorority Noise Split (Bad Timing)

Spoonboy’s Great Mistake Maker from Spoonboy/Goodbye Party Split (Silver Sprocket Bicycles)

Sun Kil Moon’s Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes from Benji (Caldo Verde)

Tiny Moving Parts’ Boxcar from Pleasant Living (Triple Crown)

Two Knights’ Benji’s Cool Times Summer Jamz from Sundae Bloody Sunday (Topshelf)

Bonnie Prince Billy’s We are Unhappy from Singer’s Grave A Sea of Tongues (Drag City)

The World Is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die’s If and When I Die from Between Bodies (Broken World)

You Blew It’s Match and Tinder from Keep Doing What You’re Doing (Topshelf)

Granite and Tumble Compared To Other’s Tops in 2014

Out of curiosity, I compared my top 25 albums of 2014 with some of the other popular lists to see how much overlap there was.   The answer is not much.  There are a bit more overlaps than in years past, but still largely a distinct list.  So, if nothing else my list could be some new music for you.

  • No overlaps with the 50 from Pitchfork.
  • One overlap with the 50 from Spin (Joyce Manor #32 at Spin, #25 on GT)
  • No overlaps with the 50 from Paste
  • No overlaps with the 50 from NPR
  • One overlap with the 50 from Stereogum (You Blew It #45 at Gum, #10 on GT)
  • No overlaps with the 35 from GorillavsBear
  • Four overlaps with the 20 from Punknews (The Hotelier #16 at Punk, #7 on GT; Cayetana #14 at Punk, #12 on GT; Joyce Manor #13 at Punk, #25 on GT; Prawn #10 at Punk, #9 on GT)
  • No overlaps with the 25 from MetaCritic

Favorite Albums of 2014

I bought 113 albums in 2014.

I decided to list every album that had average song rating greater than 4, since they would all be worthy of mentioning and buying.   I have 25 albums that earned that distinction.

Using my album formula, here is the ranking of my favorite 25 albums in 2014:

1. Tiny Moving Parts’ Pleasant Living (Triple Crown) – 9.720

2.  David Bazan and Passenger String Quartet’s Volume 1 (Self Released) – 9.657

3.  Antarctigo Vespucci’s Soulmate Stuff (Quote Unquote) – 9.503

4. The Smith Street Band’s Throw Me In The River (Side One Dummy) – 9.489

5. The Bruce Lee Band’s Everything Will Be Alright, My Friend (Asian Man) – 9.408

6. J. Mascis’ Tied to a Star (Sub Pop) – 9.392

7.  The Hotelier’s Home, Like Noplace is There (Tiny Engines) – 9.387

8. Candy Hearts’ All The Ways You Let Me Down (Bridge Nine) – 9.363

9.  Prawn’s Kingfisher (Topshelf) – 9.263

10. You Blew It’s You Keep Doing What You’re Doing (Topshelf) – 9.238

11.  Collections of Colonies of Bees’ Set (pVine) – 9.150

12.  Cayetana’s Nervous Like Me (Tiny Engines) – 9.127

13.  Real Friends’ Maybe This Place Is The Same We’re Just Changing (Fearless) – 9.101

14. Cheap Girls’ Famous Graves (Xtra Mile) – 9.001

15.  Owen’s Other People’s Songs (Polyvinyl) – 8.839

16.  Empire! Empire! (I was a Lonely Estate)’s You Will Eventually Be Forgotten (Count Your Lucky Stars) – 8.807

17.  The World Is a Beautiful Place & I am No longer Afraid To Die’s Between Bodies (Broken World) – 8.767

18. Spraynard’s The Mark Tom and Patrick Show (Asian Man) – 8.751

19. Free Throw’s Those Days Are Gone (Count Your Lucky Stars) – 8.708

20. Tim Barry’s Lost & Rootless (Chunksaah) – 8.680

21. Modern Baseball’s You’re Gonna Miss It All (Run For Cover) – 8.678

22. Brave Bird’s T-Minus Grand Gesture (Count Your Lucky Stars) – 8.594

23. Sledding with Tigers’ A Necessary Bummer (Antquere) – 8.360

24. Chuck Ragan’s Till Midnight (Side One Dummy) – 8.320

25. Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again (Epitaph) – 7.627

Favorite EPs of 2014

The EPs of 2014 were a spectacular list.   I bought 48 EPs released in 2014 and narrowing it down to my favorites proved to be an enjoyable challenge.   I decided to set the bar at an average song rating greater than 4.  This left off 8 other notable EPs that had average song rating of 4.   In a shorter format, I felt the higher average necessary otherwise a single great song could catapult an EP into this distinguishable class.

The list below is the top 10 (using my album formula for ranking), all worth buying…

1. The Front Bottoms Rose (Bar/None) – 9.755

2. Prawn/Joi De Vivre Split EP (Topshelf) – 9.684

3.  Antarctigo Vespucci’s I’m So Tethered (Asian Man) – 9.269

4. Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)/Joi De Vivre Split EP (Count Your Lucky Stars) – 9.237

5. Bonnie Prince Billy’s Barely Regal EP (Drag City) – 9.073

6.  Little Fires’s Seft Titled (Bandcamp) – 9.007

7.  I Kill Giants’ No One Will Ever Leave You (Broken World) – 8.858

8.  Nana Grizol’s Nightlights (Bandcamp) – 8.735

9. Sundowner’s Little Elephant Sessions (Fat Wreck Chords) – 8.678

10. Annabel / Dowsing Split EP (Count Your Lucky Stars) – 8.447