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.

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