2018 Musical Favorites

A short preamble:

In a move that is the nearly opposite of my thoughts last year, I decided only to pick music that wasn't made by my friends. That is not to say my friends didn't make some stellar music this year, but that my investment with their work is different. Its value is intertwined with them as people, and to rate their work feels more and more like ranking them as people, which is not how I roll. That said, check out Birdflower, Domestikwom, Gnawing, KEN Mode, Lacquer, Ben Murphy, Necrolytic Goat Converter, Pumpkinseed, QOHELETH, Shooting Guns, Terminator 2, Void Ritual, Witch Mountain, and everyone else I forgot.

Bonnie Baxter - Ask Me How Satan Started

Anger is not hate. Anger can be a good and natural reaction to the unknown, the perplexing, the uncomfortable, the insensitive, the confounding, even the cruel. This album makes me angry. It's not that I don't like it; it wouldn't be here if I did. I don't think I've had more mixed reactions to an album I can't stop playing. It's frustrating. It annoys me greatly. And I can't stop playing it. I know it's good, maybe even great. Maybe that's part of my anger. Maybe I'm mad it exists. Maybe I'm jealous. But I know I'm listening and I can't stop.

Lisbon Freedom Unit - Praise Of Our Folly

I don't know how this nonet managed to improvise these pieces without falling over each other or tumbling like dominoes. Even more, I don't know how it managed to be so good. There is space for people to play, solo and together; the themes build naturally and the parts play off each other beautifully. It's not one mind, but it's one purpose.

Nearly Dead - Something Stronger

They aren't The Cows or Brainbombs, but they learned from their elders that trumpets are noise rock as fuck. Ugly, raw, uncomfortable. Those are the kind words I'll say about them. They want to hurt you because you're there, not because they get anything out of it.

Brandy - Laugh Track

I like a bad that teases while it pleases. Laugh Track's opener, "You're a Dentist", starts off like a krautrock track, a simple driving beat to carry you down the road. At the point you feel you've pegged it, squealing peals start coming from the engine, and before long you're out control, at the mercy of an unresponsive machine. Taunting, snarling, howling, careening. Drive me out of my mind, you noise rock sickos.

Harriet Tubman - The Terror End of Beauty

I freely admit I'm still absorbing this album. It'll take more than a few weeks for me to sort it out. I wrote about their last album, Araminta, and it was one of my favorite records of last year. Thus far, my mind and my gut say The Terror End of Beauty surpasses it. Too often our preconceptions and traditions blind us to possibilities. What Harriet Tubman do so well is to force the listener to acknowledge and confront all of the bands collective experiences. It's not jazz and rock, funk and soul, hardcore, hip-hop, reggae, and gospel; it's Harriet Tubman's music, which includes all and precludes none of their varied lives.

The Fun Years - A Heart To Heart About Our Values

Last year's Heroes of the Second Story Walkup left me spellbound. A Heart to Heart About Our Values is what happens once the spells released, and the ramifications of the experience. Aftershocks of the soul played on turntables and baritone guitar.

Dreamweapon - SOL

Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment. Repetition is a path to enlightenment.

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt - Brace Up!

There is a fine line between improvised cacophony and wanking. Corsano and Orcutt are old hands at joyous cacophony, and understand that the trick is to listen and observe while you work. The interplay here is a sound to behold; there is no leader, no follower, only compatriots running hand in hand, Corsano deftly shifting from support to lead, Orcutt driving then looping back and under. Each listen yields new moments to treasure.

Brett Naucke - The Mansion

The memory of a building given form, The Mansion is a lucid dream of sound, a synesthetic expression of thoughts and dreams. Or maybe it isn't. Maybe it's an album of beautiful themes crafted from synthesizers and field recordings, vocals, loops and violas. What isn't in doubt is it's another album of space and mind, the one unifier of my personal tastes in 2018.

Low - Double Negative

Low made their best album since Trust. Which is also what I said of their last record, Ones and Sixes. People are marveling over the dissonance, the side-chaining, the studio as instrument addition to the Low arsenal. What people should be marveling at is the songs. I was lucky enough to see them play not long after this recording when they were working out the shape these songs would take live. It was wonderful to hear almost an entire set of unreleased material, forcing the audience to (mostly) quiet attention. These songs. Pay quiet attention.

Jeff Carey - Zero Player Game

I've read the description of how Jeff Carey made this music. I've watched videos of performances. I understand in theory what's going on here yet I'm dumbfounded when I listen, overwhelmed by the anarchic collection of beats and feedback, glitches and noise. It's not random, but it's not written and at moments seems uncontrolled. But it's musical in ways my own forays into noise rarely achieve. The most inspiring music of 2018.

v/a - Drone Not Drones V

You might not need over a day's worth of live, improvised drone and related music but I did. Repeatedly.

Kiki Pau - Hilsi

I have a soft spot for music that feels outside of time. Kiki Pau's sound is untethered from trends or cares, making their own inner space-rock for themselves. It's like closely examining someone's bookshelves while you're housesitting. Not private, but revealing, and something you wouldn't do in their presence. This is music you write about in your diary. Or maybe that's all me, and people are comfortable with sharing their space/psych/kosmiche music in public.

Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temple

The opposite of anti-life is the teaming loam Kikagaku Moyo planted themselves in several years ago. Year after year, the young Japanese band have grown deeper roots and broader foliage. Moving breezily from pastoral folk to heavy psych, Masana Temple is somehow their most intimate yet all-encompassing music. It's headphone music best experienced with others, a communal intimacy of sound. The kind of music you listen to lying on the floor next to your best friend, never saying a word.

Omit - Enclosures 2011-2016

I like my electronic music to stalk me with cold menace. No day-glo, no neon, no dancing. Give me a bare bulb swinging in a cement room. Give me the feeling of slow crushing movement. Not glacial; unnatural, uncaring. Enclosures 2011-2016 is full of knife-edge glintings, industrial processes, inevitable and unyielding mechanization. It's bereft of the hand of the New Zealand recluse that made it. The sound of an autonomous system set into motion. It's also the music I returned to the most in 2018, spending hundreds of hours in its clinical anti-life.