After the success of last year’s ‘5 Noteworthy Rock Albums of 2017,’ I’ve decided to stay the course by altering the format with a surprise ‘best of’ list which does not arrive until the beginning of January of the following year. It’s only fair. As an added bonus, that means I don’t have all the other stupid ‘best of’-‘year end’-’roundups’ to compete with. Reflection is best done after the fact, not as events are ongoing. So now that you’ve enjoyed or loathed a Christmas with your family and let the dust settle onto the new year, let’s dig back into 2018 as Felix Rodriguez (also known by his musical moniker Open/Honest) walks us through his picks. -MLP
Ranking art is weird and hard. So instead of a traditional tiered list of my favorite music releases I’d like to give a shout out to some music for hyper specific and ridiculous reasons. This is far from a comprehensive list and I do not claim any authority of #musiccriticism. Without further ado:
2018’s 2017 album of the year: N.E.R.D. – No One Ever Really Dies
A dizzying record that demands repeat listens, No One Ever Really Dies successfully bridges punk, hip hop, synth rock, and New Orleans bounce. I had a break through moment with this record while driving across the state to visit family at the very end of 2017 and listened to it almost daily for the first 6 months of 2018.
2018’s Biggest Restrained Drumming: Jamie Isaac – (4:30) Idler
Drums aside this record is a perfectly pleasant down tempo piano driven R&B album. But the combination of Jamie’s singing and muted chords with those drums create songs that have such breath and movement that it’s as if voice and percussion are singing a duet. For context listen to the lead single “Maybe” and bask in the grooves.
Honorable Mention: The Internet – Hive Mind
2018’s “Why You Crying In The Club” Album of the Year:
Porches – The House
Finding a joy in vulnerability is such a vivid theme to explore with art. Few albums this year bridged the divide as well as Porches’ “The House”. This album sounds like a melting popsicle in August that you biked to the store to get because your A/C stopped working and it’s 102 outside and you really need to make some changes in your life but you’re not sure how because you’re perfectly happy but you know change is coming one way or the other and it tastes so sweet but the sun is melting it faster than you can eat it so you put your hand under it to catch the fruit juice and some of it gets on your shirt but you don’t mind because it tastes better for having struggled through it. Yeah this album sounds like that.
Honorable Mention: Blood Orange – Negro Swan
2018’s “Album That Makes Me Want to Move to Berlin & Restart My Math-Rock Band with Max” of the Year:
Dirty Projectors – Lamp Lit Prose
The beauty of Dirty Projectors songs is that within 20 seconds they have established more melodic character than most full songs from other musicians. They are incredibly proficient musicians but any complexity is always in service first and foremost to the songs themselves.
Honorable Mention: Forth Wanderers – Forth Wanderers
2018’s Experimental Trap Beat of the Year: Playboy Carti – Shoota (feat. Lil Uzi Vert) It’s like Steve Reich turned “Music For 18 Musicians” into a 2:35 long medley. I’d try to describe it more but it’s best to just put on headphones and jump into this one blind.
Honorable Mention: SOPHIE – “Ponyboy”
2018’s Funniest Rap Ad Lib: ‘Then I FREAKED it’ from “King’s Dead” – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, & James Blake
Be honest with yourself, you’re thinking about the dozen jokes or tweets you made with this as the punch line. It’s a kind of nihilist refrain, a laugh at the encroaching storm. Try throwing that on the end of your favorite literary passage, it’s a belly laugh. and then I freaked it.
‘OH… FUCK… SHIT… BITCH!!’ Sheck Wes – Mo Bamba
2018’s “Summer Bop That You Filmed Yourself Dancing To Multiple Times But Never Posted” of the Year: Valee, Jeremiah – Womp Womp
I am not exaggerating when I say that if you saw me between the months of May and September I was probably humming this song under my breath at some point in our conversation. There’s not a lot of #criticalreasoning to defining a summer bop and there’s not a lot to unpack in this song but whoa does it get my ass moving the second it comes on.
Honorable Mention: Cardi B. – I Like It
2018’s “Album to put on at work when you don’t know your coworkers at all yet and aren’t sure what they’re into” of the Year:
Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
This category had a few close ’tied for second’ options but nothing was a better ice breaker musically in 2018 than Khruangbin. Pristine guitar, impeccable drumming and bouncy bass work in tandem so well that one of your coworkers will surely say “wow this is good, have you heard___?” and suddenly you know what type of music to play them next time you close together.
Honorable Mentions: Broncho – Bad Behavior, & Against All Logic – 2012-2017
2018’s “Album you feel guilty about how much you enjoy because it’s technically a video game soundtrack but also it’s basically the exact type of music you are trying to make in your solo project” of the year: Daniel Koestner -Donut County (Original Soundtrack)
Seriously the soundtrack to a game called Donut County is probably my instrumental album of the year. It’s meditative and frantic, calm and kinetic. I don’t really know how to categorize it other than that this album makes me want to make music.
2018’s “This album is absolutely specifically tailored for me to love it and I understand that it’s hard to get into but” of the Year:
Tierra Whack – Whack World
Have you ever thrown your hands up in delightful exasperation while involuntarily twerking? An audio interpolation of bisexual lighting. We live in a cartoon world and Tierra channels it in such an imperfectly perfect way.
Honerable Mention: Nostrum Grocers – Nostrum Grocers
2018’s “I’ve been telling you Spanish influence is the future of music” album of the year: Rosalía – El Mar Querer
” __ meets ___” comparisons always fail to capture some aspects of the subject being described. That being said, Rosalía’s El Mar Querer is a concept album of Spanish Flamenco Trap about a baroque era novel. Dive in with an open mind and a translation of the lyrics and enjoy.
Honorable Mentions: Rae Sremmurd – Guatemala, Bad Bunny – Mia (ft. Drake)
2018’s “This rips actually” album of the year: Iceage – Beyondless
I’m so happy rock fell from grace a decade ago and people have been picking up the pieces and rebuilding it in new and exciting ways. Iceage is as urgent as ever with even more grandiosity and swagger throughout this record.
Honorable mention: Snail Mail – Lush
2018’s “Album I only got around to listening to because of other album of the year lists and ‘hey this is actually really good wow'” of the year: DJ Koze – Knock Knock
No other album in 2018 has made me more upset that I didn’t listen to it earlier than “Knock Knock”. It’s a big and fragile and sounds like a distillation of optimism in the form of dance music.
Honorable Mention: Low – Double Negative