Sunday, January 6, 2019

Top 10 Local Albums of 2018

Happy New Year, everybody!

I've actually gotten my Best Of lists for 2018 finished earlier this year than ever before. So as I did last year, I'm going to start with my Top 10 Local Albums of 2018 list.

Just as a reminder, here are my rules. What is eligible: It has to be a full-length album of at least 7 songs (unless you've got one or more epic-length songs). No EPs. It also has to be all by one artist -- no compilations. And as last year, although I still prefer CDs, I have once again allowed digital-only albums to be considered. 

As much as I promised myself to listen to fewer new albums this year, it didn't happen. In fact, I actually listened to more albums this year than I did last. Once again, I tried to listen to a variety of genres, but my tastes are what they are. So the vast majority of the albums I listened to tended to be culled from the fields of alternative and indie rock, progressive rock, folk, pop rock and pop, with a little bit of hard rock and pop punk thrown into the mix.

As for the definition of the word "local", I try to keep it very loose. For the purposes of picking a Top 10 Local Albums list, here's what I consider "local": 1. Long Island, for sure; 2. The 5 boroughs of NYC (especially Brooklyn, where a lot of Long Island bands have run off to); 3. Sometimes Jersey or a little ways upstate, if the mood takes me. (I'm not giving away money or anything, so I kind of get to make up the rules as I go along). Also, if a band or artist spent a decent amount of time living on and playing on Long Island or in the City in the past, they get to qualify, even if they've moved to another area of the country.

For me, 2018 was an OK year for music -- not the best, but not the worst either.

I don't usually do honorable mentions, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the one album that just missed this list this year, the album Marauder by the New York City-based band Interpol. It's the best album they've put out in quite a few years, and I'm sorry to have to leave it off the list. But it was just barely beaten out by the 10 LPs I'm now going to discuss. 

As an added bonus, this year, I'm including a link to my favorite track from each album. So without further ado, here, in reverse order, are my Top 10 Local Albums of 2018:

Top 10 Local Albums of 2018

10. Jeff Rosenstock - POST

This is the third time that Rosenstock has made one of my Top 10 Local Artists lists, and although I consider this the weakest (or at the least the most inconsistent) of his three solo albums, it's still pretty damned good. Like all of his work, it's noisy, and punky, and pretty fun. My favorite track: "Melba".  Jeff Rosenstock - Melba

9. Senses Fail - If There Is Light It Will Find You

This is a delightful pop punk band from Ridgewood, New Jersey. Again, while the album isn't as consistent as I'd like it to be, when it's strong, it's very strong. My favorite track: "Double Cross". Senses Fail - Double Cross

8. John Nolan - Abendigo

This is the latest solo album by John Nolan, of Taking Back Sunday and Straylight Run fame. He did a really nice job with this one, and does some nice mixing and matching of styles. My favorite track: "Outside of This Tragedy". John Nolan - Outside of This Tragedy

7. Cassandra House - The Roam

I reviewed this album earlier in the year. House is a local Long Islander who works in the country/folk/Americana genre. She has quite a bit of vocal talent, when it comes to singing with expression, and she's a decent songwriter as well. My favorite track: "Little Flower". Cassandra House - Little Flower

6. Rachael Sage - Myopia

This is another album I reviewed earlier in the year. Sage is a New-York-based singer-songwriter whose style contains just a touch of cabaret. She's a former dancer and show-kid, and it shows. Myopia is her 13th studio album, but while I had heard of her before this, I never actually heard her music prior to seeing her opening live for Howard Jones late last year. I'm sorry it took me so long. My favorite track: "Spark". Rachael Sage - Spark

5. The Republic of Wolves - Shrine

This is the second time this Long Island alternative rock band his made this list. This album is dark, wonderful and just a little heavy. My favorite track: "Dialogues". The Republic of Wolves - Dialogues

4. MGMT - Little Dark Age

This one was kind of a surprise to me. I've been very unimpressed by the last couple of LPs from this Brooklyn duo, and if it weren't for the word of mouth, I probably wouldn't even have checked this one out. But they're back to playing electropop, and here, they do it quite well. My favorite track: "She Works Out Too Much". MGMT - She Works Out Too Much

3. Matt and Kim - Almost Everyday

On the other hand, I've really been enjoying the most recent output from this Brooklyn-based duo, and this album keeps up with that tradition. It's not exactly experimental, but there is a bit of innovation going on here musically, and Almost Everyday finds the band at its most serious, as they write about themes of age and mortality. My favorite track: "Youngest I Will Be". Matt and Kim - Youngest I Will Be

2. Frankie Cosmos - Vessel

This band is fronted by Greta Kline, the daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates. They play a very loose style of indie pop, with short, jangly pop songs that are very loosely structured. At first, the loose structure bothered me, but the album has grown on me as the year has gone by. My favorite track: "Duet". Frankie Cosmos - Duet

1. Reed & Caroline - Hello Science

This album really grew on me -- it went shooting up my favorites list at the end of the year. Reed & Caroline are an electropop duo that seems to like to write a lot of songs about scientific concepts and principles. The music features pretty, ephemeral female vocals and interesting electronic stylings. They remind me in some ways of Future Bible Heroes, but their songs are less tongue-in-cheek, and they don't have Stephin Merritt's biting sense of humor. I was supposed to see them open for Erasure this past summer, but alas, traffic on the LIE made us late for the show, to my eternal regret. My favorite track: "Before". Reed & Caroline - Before

So that's this year's list. Thanks to all of you who took the time to read it, and maybe to check out some of the music.

Coming up in a day or so (workload pending) will be my overall Top 10 Albums of 2018 list. Will some of these entries be there? You'll have to read it to see.