Monday, January 7, 2019

Top 10 Albums of 2018

Moving right along from yesterday's list, today I present my Top 10 Albums of 2018 overall.

A brief reminder of the rules as to what constitutes an "album": It has to be an LP of seven songs or more, or at least 30 minutes in length (so EPs are ineligible); and it has to be all by one artist -- no compilations allowed. As I stated yesterday, once again this year, digital-only releases were allowed. 

Also, a reminder to my blog readers: While I always post my CD reviews on the Sputnik Music site first, and post them here afterwards, for reviews of live concerts and shows, and for my end of the year lists, they're released first here on my blog. Later, they're usually posted (albeit in a much more abbreviated form) as a list on Sputnik Music.

The first honorable mention I'll give you this year is an album that looked like it was going to make my Top 10 all year, then barely missed out when I reassessed things over this past week. It's the album Motions by the Danish psychedelic rock band Red Lama. Two others I'll throw in are Dionysus, the new album from Dead Can Dance, and Honey, the latest effort by Swedish pop singer Robyn.

So, let's see how many of our albums by local artists from yesterday's list made this one also. Here they are, in reverse order:

Top 10 Albums of 2018:

10.  Tom Bailey - Science Fiction

Tom Bailey is the former frontman of the '80s new wave band Thompson Twins. I saw Bailey live this summer, and enjoyed him a lot. So when I learned he'd released his first-ever solo album I picked it up, not really expecting a lot. But it's excellent. It still has an '80s dance-pop vibe, but some of the tracks here also bring in Latino rhythms. It's like Santana does post-punk. My favorite track: "What Kind of World". Tom Bailey - What Kind of World

9. Beach House - 7

I have loved this female-fronted dream pop duo since I first heard them, so I'm happy to see them make one of my Top 10 Albums lists for the first time. The vibe is laid back, the vocals are slow and pretty, and the hooks are sharp. My favorite track: "Drunk in LA". Beach House - Drunk in LA

8. Johnny Marr - Call the Comet

Ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr released another excellent solo album this year, proving that all that bastard Morrissey ever did was hold him back and hold him back. (Not really, but you know what I mean.) Marr has proved that he has a great talent for crafting catchy pop rock songs. I'm not sure I like this one better than his 2013 album The Messenger, but it's damned close. My favorite track: "Hi Hello". Johnny Marr - Hi Hello

7. The Republic of Wolves - Shrine

OK, so now you have an idea about how many of yesterday's bands are going to make this list as well. (Answer: several of them). This is the second time this Long Island band has made my Top 10 list. My favorite track here is still "Dialogues", but I'll give you a different linked track for the sake of a little variety. The Republic of Wolves - Colored Out

6. Belly - Dove

I'll be honest - I liked this band back in the '90s, but I bought this album out of nostalgia. I never expected it to make my Top 10 list. This being their first album in 23 years, I was blown away to discover that this is the strongest and most consistent album they've ever released. But Tanya Donelly is in great form here, and the band has crafted some great alt-pop songs. My favorite track: "Mine". Belly - Mine

5. MGMT - Little Dark Age

I pretty much said it yesterday -- I always looked at this band as a lesser Passion Pit. But they got the last laugh, not only breaking into my Top 10 for the first time, but doing so at a very respectable #5. Well played, gentlemen. Well played. My favorite track by far is the very clever number I listed yesterday, "She Works Out Too Much". But I'll hook you up with another of their best, about cell phone obsession: MGMT - TSLMP

4. Matt and Kim - Almost Everyday

When I first heard these guys a few years ago, I thought they were the musical equivalent of Beavis and Butt-head. (I didn't realize that Kim was a girl. Guess I'm the butthead.) But their 2015 album New Glow made my Top 10 list, and this one does too. My favorite track on here is "Youngest I Will Be". But try this one as well, yet another musing on life and whether it's still worth living: Matt and Kim - Forever

3. Frankie Cosmos - Vessel

As I mentioned yesterday, this album confused me a little at first, but grew on me as the year wore on. I love Greta Kline's breathy vocals, and the sparseness of the arrangements. My favorite track is "Duet", but a close second is this one, the album's opening track: Frankie Cosmos - Carmelize

2. Reed & Caroline - Hello Science

This is another album that grew on me more and more over the course of the year, until finally, I realized it was one of my very favorite albums of 2018. It's sad that almost no one has heard of these guys, and that when they opened for Erasure, a lot of the '80s-loving crowd found them mystifying. But I love them, and you can too! My favorite track is "Before", but this slow, dreamy, beautiful tune is also one to hear: Reed & Caroline - Entropy

1. Chvrches - Love Is Dead

I knew that this Scottish electropop trio had real potential, but this is the album I always hoped they were capable of. This is their most mainstream album to date, and by far their most consistent. Lauren Mayberry's voice has never been better, and the hooks are there on almost every track. For me, Mayberry is this decade's Hayley Williams. My favorite track is the opener, "Graffiti". But really, they're all pretty good. Chvrches - Graffiti

So that wraps up my Top 10 Albums of 2018 list. The list is especially heavy on alt-pop and electro-pop this year, but that's just the way it worked out. I hope you'll give some (or all) of them a listen. 

I'll be back in a day or two with the first part of my Top 20 Songs of 2018 list. Some of them I've listed already, but many of them will surprise you. I'll also be back to writing CD reviews as soon as I can. I've been inundated by my new responsibilities on my job, but I've got plenty of great (and also some lousy) albums to write about in 2019. I've also got some concerts coming up that I'll be telling you about soon. So until then ... as Austin Powers would say, "Oh, behave!"