Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Top 30 ALBUMS of 2018: Part One (#21--30)...

There's a reason why consensus has been hard to get this year for best album: everybody stepped up. Some usually-expected names here but a lot of new names have emerged.

Here are my picks of the best:

21. Pusha T Daytona:

He’s one of the handful of street rappers who have been able to cross over to the corporate side with ease; Rick Ross and JAY are the only others who come immediately to mind. King Push’s lyrics lend credence to his truth-telling persona. On “Infrared,” he tells his truth once more, as he references the Cash Money sub-fest that is “Exodus 23:1” and re-ignites his beef with Drake. 2018 will be remembered as the year Pusha won, in every sense of the word. (COMPLEX)

22. Ariana Grande Sweetener:

Though some stans might disagree, Sweetener is Grande’s strongest work to date, thanks in large part to previous collaborator Max Martin and the legendary Pharrell Williams. The opening track, “Raindrops (an Angel Cried),” an interpolation of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons’ “An Angel Cried,” is 38 seconds of chill-inducing bliss, with her pipes on full display. The rest of the album is less about her range and affinity for whistle tones, which is fine. We already know she can sing; on Sweetener, we finally get to hear Grande grow into her voice and give us more memorable work. (COMPLEX)

23. N.E.R.D No One Ever Really Dies:

what’s most striking about No_One Ever Really Dies: the way these former architects of Future Sound have become handmaidens to their past. The weaknesses on their previous records (other than Nothing, which every good N.E.R.D. fan ignores) came from ideas that pointed off in new directions even if they weren’t fully fleshed out. Here, even the better songs are recycled, as the band lives off blood infusions from its guestlist. Out of the game so long, the N.E.R.D. antennae have picked up on something extra-musical in the air, and crafted their old sound around it. (PITCHFORK)

24. Hookworms Microshift:

You would have to search far and wide to find a transformation in an already great band that works as well as this. The key to it all is the vulnerability that MJ is now willing to put on display, giving the newfound musical incisiveness the emotional fuel it needs to really fly. If this isn’t one of the albums of the year then we must be in for something special. (DROWNEDINSOUND)

25. Emma Ruth Rundle On Dark Horses:
She is crafting bold art that is bleak and brooding, yet devastatingly beautiful. More importantly, she is telling stories that must be told and heard. Even in the most terrible moments and in the darkest of times, she finds something from which strength can be obtained and lessons can be learned. She finds the pain that inflicts us all, yet she encourages us to not simply run away but to be the remedy to the infliction. To realize that we are not just riding On Dark Horses, but we are the dark horses. (THEREVUE)

26. Ty Segall Freedom’s Goblin:

In marveling at the sheer volume of Segall’s discography, it’s easy to overlook his growth as a writer. He’s often slotted alongside peers like Thee Oh Sees and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard in the pantheon of garage-rockers with exploratory impulses and little regard for traditional promo cycles. But it’s more apt to mention him in the same breath as musicians like Robert Pollard, Ted Leo, or Elliott Smith—expert melody-makers who borrow liberally from the classic-rock canon, but reshape and demystify it in their own eccentric image. And on Freedom’s Goblin, the tuneful sensibility that Segall has been nurturing since 2011’s Goodbye Bread fully blossoms into sky-high hooks and rich, resonant lyricism, all while keeping his primordial spirit intact. (PITCHFORK)

27. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Hope Downs:

the band has tightened things up in just the right ways and come up with something magical. The guys in the band headed off to a remote area of Australia, bunkered down with producer Liam Judson, and refined their sound until it shone like a gem. More than before, the guitars have a spiky bite, the vocals come through clearly, the rhythm section has some kick, and every song feels like a hit. The first three songs, "An Air Conditioned Man," "Talking Straight," and "Mainland," are breathtaking guitar pop, built on the DNA of the Feelies, the Go-Betweens, and R.E.M. but given new life by the emotion the three songwriters and vocalists (Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and Joe White) pour into the words and singing. Not to mention the thrilling interplay of their guitars; none of them are virtuosic, but the parts they play fit together as seamlessly as Lego pieces. (ALLMUSIC)

28. Leon Bridges Good Thing:

Bridges addresses the just and unjust objections to his first LP. Musical progression lines every seam, from the disco strut of ‘If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)’ to the modern sheen of ‘You Don’t Know’. What’s more, he retains the timeless sparkle of ‘Coming Home’ but pushes the clock forward, this time pitching somewhere between 60’s-era Mad Men living rooms and present-day clubs. Opener ‘Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand’ could be handpicked from any previous decade, but the gentle guitar loops of ‘Shy’ owe a debt to Danger Mouse’s productions. He’s no longer directly indebted to the past. (NME)

29. White Denim Performance:

The colorful abundance of Performance is reminiscent of another guys-rocking-in-a-room album from earlier this year: Chicago psych bros Post Animal’s When I Think of You in a Castle, which fused skill and melody to similarly potent effect. But while Post Animal aren’t shy about venturing into heady territory, Performance finds White Denim sticking comfortably within the confines of more familiar classic rock sounds. The closest they get to entering a trippier realm is in the closing minutes of the sprawling “Fine Slime,” when a jammy, grimy groove starts to fade out, replaced by some errant noise. But then the grit returns at full blast. You can hear hints of the Beatles (don’t laugh) on the album, as well as blues-pop titans and fellow classic rock disciples the Black Keys, who leave an indelible imprint on opener “Magazin.” (PITCHFORK)

30. Virginia Wing Ecstatic Arrow:

Ecstatic Arrow is an album of fresh starts. Richards and Pillay recorded in the Swiss Alps, and while the connection between location and sound is often spurious, there is a heady clarity to the album that you might describe as “alpine” if that word hadn’t been ruined by men’s shower gel. Koto sparkles; swathes of synthesizer mist descend, then break, allowing incandescent pop choruses to break through; and the pair create ashram lusciousness from icy machines. Virginia Wing’s is an understated but familiar scramble of mid-’80s pop at its most avant-garde—Laurie Anderson’s sprechgesang, Peter Gabriel and Japan’s chilly hauteur; Kate Bush’s imposing dynamic and Malcolm McLaren’s impish reinvention—so if Ecstatic Arrow doesn’t feel quite like stepping into a new world, it at least returns us to an unspoiled glade. (PITCHFORK)