Sorrow. Struggle. Regret. Forgiveness. Letting go of the past. Freedom. Liberation. These are the major themes of my 20 favorite albums of 2018, a year when getting lost in music and the grander schemes of life felt more important than ever.
Rankings felt harder than ever this year for some reason, so take an album’s position in the list with a grain of salt as truly, all 20 meant something very special to me.
Finally, another thing that happened in 2018: I got my dream job doing marketing, communications and public relations for Red Rocks Amphitheatre. This whole blog thing started because I thought it would be pertinent to build a “portfolio” of music-related writings and content since I wanted a job in the music industry. This is the 10th anniversary of me starting this blog. Let that be inspiration that some things that are meant to be take time, and that everything that’s meant to be will be!
20. Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You for Today
Seth Cohen, listen up! Death Cab released an actually ok album that serves some feelings similar to what listening to early 2000s Death Cab did and I am totally here for that!
Favorite track: “Autumn Love”
19. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine
Oh weird, a Justin Vernon project is on my list.
Favorite track: “I Won’t Run From It”
18. Rhye – Blood
I’ve been waiting for a new Rhye album to materialize ever since being completely shook by Mike Milosh’s April 2013 performance at Schubas in Chicago – a nearly impossible ticket to get, the show was prefaced by some ground rules which included no talking, no walking in and out of the room during the performance, no drinks being sold at the back bar and absolutely no photos allowed. It all made for an intense, completely engrossing, sexy-ass show, which my friend and concert companion Ryan can attest to (Ryan, wasn’t 2018 a weird year for music?!). Finally, 5 years later, we have Rhye’s Blood, which builds upon and extends the sultry and sweet R&B nibbles we were first introduced to on Woman, and crawling back into that cocoon proved very necessary in 2018.
Favorite track: “Song For You”
17. Lykke Li – So Sad So Sexy
Just seeing the title of Lykke Li’s 4th LP was like “ok yes I am so on board.” And tbh, while it’s not nearly as sad as 2014’s I Never Learn (the sexy part is up for debate), So Sad So Sexy brings a majority of the feels of its predecessor and marries them with song more driven by beats from Lykke Li’s earliest work. It’s sad, it’s pretty sexy, and I dig it.
Favorite track: “utopia”
16. Jeff Tweedy – WARM
It’s dumb for me to write anything about Jeff Tweedy and his music because I’d rather just encourage you to read his just-released memoir and listen to its pseudo-companion album, WARM. Because no one knows Tweedy like Tweedy, and WARM is a tender, eye-opening, masterfully-crafted entry in an increasingly impressive body of work.
Favorite track: “From Far Away”
15. Cat Power – Wanderer
Like haiiii is it 2003 again or what?! Either way, I loved having some new Cat Power in my life.
Favorite track: “Stay”
14. S. Carey – Hundred Acres
While not as essential as Range of Light or the completely entrancing Supermoon EP, the Bon Iver drummer’s latest album is a beautiful place to get lost in for a while, and damnit, Carey stands on his own as an artist!
Favorite track: “Have You Stopped to Notice” / “Meadow Song”
13. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
This is an album that (for me at least) is best enjoyed while in a particular mood (if you know what I’m sayin’) to really get into. Thankfully that mood strikes quite often here in Colorado.
Favorite track: “One Trick Ponies”
12. Iron & Wine – Weed Garden EP
And yeah, I KNOW it’s an EP.
Favorite track: “Talking to Fog”
11. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Like duh. I guess I don’t have much more to say.
Favorite track: “Lonesome Love”
10. Gregory Alan Isakov – Evening Machines
Yum because he’s from Boulder, because a high school classmate is his drummer now (?!) (shout out to Max Barcelow!) and because it would have been easy for this album to be boring but it’s totally not!
Favorite track: “Chemicals”
9. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
Another year, another FJM album. We could be reaching the Misty Tipping Point™. I have a few friends who are already over “it”; the singing, the dancing, the swaying hips, the crooning, the shtick. And honestly, I kinda was too, until I had to choose between seeing Beach House at one of my favorite clubs in Denver or Father John Misty at Red Rocks. So going into my 5th live FJM show, I was a little skeptical of my own willingness to get into “it.” And let me tell you, it didn’t take long at all and once again Mr. Tillman completely won me over. I’ll take a new album every year if that’s what he wants to keep doing, thank you very much.
Favorite track: “Just Dumb Enough to Try”
8. Lucy Dacus – Historian
Didn’t completely fall in love with this album until about a month ago but oh boy I am sure glad I did!
Favorite track: “The Shell”
7. Beach House – 7
Beach House’s spookiest album to date has everything – synths, a number for its title, a song about being drunk in LA. Oh and it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m in tears by the end if listened to straight through. Chic!
Favorite track: “Last Ride”
6. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
An album of the times, of politics, of sex and power, in the vein of Prince. Conceptually brilliant, Monae’s obvious talents really, really shine through on Dirty Computer and I love it!
Favorite track: “Screwed”
5. Blood Orange – Negro Swan
Per usual, I went a little too hard on the first day of Pitchfork Music Festival this year, and day two was a struggle. The only thing keeping me going was knowing Blood Orange had an afternoon set, one that would hopefully bring me back to life before Fleet Foxes closed out the day and I would be sleep. And that’s exactly what happened. Dev Hynes and crew had us dancing, laughing, crying, talking and not talking all while communicating some pretty heavy shit through the most wonderful sounding R&B, pop and dance music in existence today. He. Had. Risen.
Favorite track: “Smoke”
4. Robyn – Honey
*Some people* are disappointed in Honey, and honey, let me tell you; artists owe us nothing! It’s a miracle that this much genuinely good music even exists in the world, and we have the privilege to hear it! So thank you Robyn for even making another album, and an excellent one at that. On top of the fact that we should just be happy we are even hearing new Robyn music, the lyrics in my favorite track on Honey, “Send to Robin Immediately,” should be the world’s collective MO: If you got something to say, say it right away. If you got something to do, do what’s right for you. If you got somebody to love, give that love today. Know you got nothing to lose, there’s no time to waste.”
Favorite track: “Send to Robin Immediately”
3. Ben Howard – Noonday Dream
Not since the likes of Transatlanticism have I been so engrossed in an album. With Noonday Dream, Ben Howard has managed to create a world of loss, sorrow and hope, taking listeners on an atmospheric journey unlike any other album this year. Simply stunning!
Favorite track: “Towing the Line”
2. Amen Dunes – Freedom
There’s no way not to be present and really feel e v e r y t h I n g Damon McMahon sings about as he rips through the 11 songs of Freedom, an album that leaves me absolutely shooketh every single time I listen to it all the way through, which is every time I listen to it.
Side note: I got to see Amen Dunes perform at my favorite tiny venue in Denver and WOW!
Favorite track: “Freedom”
1. The Carters – EVERYTHING IS LOVE
I mean honestly, there wasn’t another album that I digitally reached for more in 2018 than EVERYTHING IS LOVE, the surprise (surprise!) release from Mr. and Mrs. Beyonce Knowles. Need an instant party? EVERYTHING IS LOVE. Feeling pissed off at someone or something? EVERYTHING IS LOVE (specifically “BOSS”). Need a gay dance moment? EVERYTHING IS LOVE (“HEARD ABOUT US”).
After the elevator fight, after a sip of Lemonade and after 4:44, the President and First Gentlemen of anything and everything relevant to culture and good music prove that sometimes, forgiveness truly is one of the most powerful tools we can wield as humans. And that’s how I feel about that!
Favorite track: “Heard About Us”