Hi, welcome to my first year-end list from 2018 and it’s about the thing I started to talk about unexpectedly and extensively in 2018 – music. Like I mentioned in my last post that 2018 was a big “taste expanding” year for me so you will see a lot of artists where the album in question is the only one I listened from them, meaning I don’t give a lot of contextual commentaries on the artists – I hope you can forgive that and my relative inexperience in describing what I like about the albums.

Anyway, let’s get into the honorable mentions first. I have three of them.

Wednesday Campanella –  Galapagos

wednesday campanella galapagos

Favorite tracks: The Bamboo Princess, Picasso, Melos, Three Mystic Apes

Wednesday Campanella sound as fresh as ever on their new album, as usual – they continue to genre-blend and genre-bend house, hip-hop, pop, electronica and they even introduce some classical instruments in the mix. I was pleasantly surprised by that tabla interlude in the middle of The Bamboo Princess. KOM_I sings a lot more and the tracks have more IDM-y and ambiance to them. I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as Superman but it’s still worth giving a listen-through. Also, I’m confused as to whether this is an EP or an album.. I mean, there are 8 tracks so I think it can be considered as an album… anyway, it’s good.

SOPHIE – Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides

sophie oil of every pearls uninsides

Favorite tracks: It’s Okay To Cry, Ponyboy, Faceshopping, Immaterial, Whole New World/Pretend World

Sophie’s studio album debut is like a mosaic in terms of overall sound. The beautiful, spacey chimes in It’s Okay to Cry, the industrial BDSM-influenced banger Ponyboy, the post-industrial vibes continue in Faceshopping, takes an ambient form in the rest of the tracklisting except Immaterial, which features bubblegum bass – and Sophie’s mastery over colorful production is amazing as ever. Track-to-track playback isn’t cohesive but I think that’s the scattered feel Sophie was going for, and it works well in some of the transitions. It took me more than a couple of listens to get into this album.

Kali Uchis – Isolation

kali uchis isolation.jpg

Favorite tracks: Miami, Your Teeth In My Neck, Tyrant, Nuestro Planeta, In My Dreams, After the Storm

While I didn’t love every song on this 15-track album, I found the comfy and dreamy sound of the record very easy to listen through. I am not much into the umbrella of genres (jazz, RnB, soul, reggaeton) she showcases in the album, but I can’t deny the bass groove and the slow percussion on the majority of the tracks. She also has some sharp lyrics, some memorable lines in Miami being: “But why would I be Kim? I could be Kanye/ In the land of opportunity and palm trees”. Uchis vocal performances are intimate, airy, sultry and dreamy – and those qualities made me put on this album every once and then during long car rides from cram school last year.

Now let’s get into the list proper…

20. Polyphia – New Levels New Devils

polyphia new levels new devils.jpg

Favorite tracks: O.D., Death Note, Bad, Yas, Rich Kids, G.O.A.T.

Polyphia really took their technical prog rock sound to new levels on this album – they infused that, electronica, hip-hop and RnB with math rock textures, inviting some cool people to feature (loved the Mario and Hansel from CHON and Yvette Young features). Every instrument sounds clean and sticky where necessary, the riffs sound free-flowing and hyper-technical at the same time, math rock songs I like need some spicy change-ups and Polyphia interjects them seamlessly in the mix. The length of the album is perfect. The layering of the instruments is cyclic yet kaleidoscopic and dizzying. It’s one spicy collection of cool math rock tunes.

19. Noname – Room 25

noname room 25

Favorite tracks: Self, Blaxploitation, Window, Don’t Forget About Me, Montego Bae, Ace

Room 25 features Noname’s sharp lyricism backed with gorgeous, jazzy, lush instrumentals, with her vocal delivery oscillating between rap and spoken-word, between witty and emotional. Self is one of my favorite album openers of 2018 – the lyrics are sharp as hell. The features are cool – Phoelix’s jazzy backing vocal features are great and Smino’s chorus in Ace is really smooth on the ears. Although I liked some tracks much more than others, I found the overall sound of the album to be cohesive and a really easy to listen through despite its dense, poetic lyricism.

18. Denzel Curry – TA13OO

denzel curry taboo

Favorite tracks: SWITCH IT UP, CLOUT COBAIN, THE BLACKEST BALLOON, PERCS, VENGEANCE, BLACK METAL TERRORIST

This is a solid conceptual album of three well-paced acts. The first (light) act consists of straight-forward trap-style bangers but stuff gets super interesting from the second act onwards – from which the album is pretty much flawless in terms of how compelling the track-to-track playback is. Denzel’s energy throughout the album is gripping and I loved the grimy production in the last quarter of the track-listing. There are decent features – a standout being Zillakami’s beastly flow in Vengeance. The lyrics on Clout Cobain and Percs are great. Overall, it’s a solid listen.

17. Anna von Hausswolff – Dead Magic

anna von hausswolff dead magic

Favorite tracks: The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra, Ugly and Vengeful and The Marble Eye

This is the only album I listened to from her discography – so I can’t comment on her evolution in terms of depth and themes. But this album very much has depth in terms of arrangements and gothic sinister feel to the sound, albeit just putting it under that wouldn’t be accurate – it’s also meditative and there are some bright, divine moments in the album. Pipe organs make a bulk of the atmosphere and melody on this thing, Anna’s vocal performances range from divinely soft to soul-shredding, and the slow pipe organ riffs remind me of the sound of drone/doom metal. The slow, meditative flow of the songs make listening through the album sort of cinematic experience – as the listener goes to through these ritualistic movements of a motion picture soundtrack. I would have ranked this higher if there was a bit heavier buildup in some the tracks, but it’s great enough as it is.

16. cacophony – Harmony

cacophony harmony

Favorite tracks: Breath, kk, In the end, Comme un poisson dans le ciel, Rosetta, Spring

Cacophony’s debut album takes fizzing atmospheric production and couples it with piano and strings – there are mostly haunting and grim pop-ballad-type tracks, but none of them hardly sound the same because she utilizes quite a wide range of synths but still manages to make the overall sound consistent. Maybe it’s her voice – her vocal performances are amazing – she has really smooth inflections and has this even husk that doesn’t break. Her choruses are powerful. Sadly, there aren’t any translations available so I can’t speak on the themes of the album – but just going from the tone and instrumentation, it’s not a happy one. Nonetheless, her production is very promising and already very compelling I hope she deepens that further in future releases.

15. JPEGMAFIA – Veteran

front cover

Favorite tracks – 1539 N. Calvert, Real Nega, Thug Tears, Baby I’m Bleeding, Whole Foods, Rainbow Six, Curb Stomp

Peggy is at everybody’s neck in this album – from alt-right trolls to libtards to bloggers. He makes a bunch of obscure references from name dropping Myke C-town to sampling Ol’ Dirty Bastard to video games like Rainbow Six to titling a song I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies… yeah. The production on this LP is noisy, glitchy, grimy, wet and cold. Peggy’s energy and flow are cutting and so are his lyrics. The album starts out really strong but there are some patches where I thought his beats got a bit samey and watered down, then again, the finishing tracks were great. This 19-track beast of an album is an essential listen because Peggy’s got some shit to say, some of which will stick with you.

14. Kero Kero Bonito – Time ‘n’ Place

kero kero bonito time n place

Favorite tracks – Time Today, Only Acting, Flyway, Make Believe, Dear Future Self, If I’d Known, Sometimes, Rest Stop

I really enjoyed this change-up Sarah and her crew brought on in 2018. The band moves on to dreamy indie rock and experimental noise pop pastures while still incorporating their previous Jpop-influenced synths in the mix. While Bonito Generation was more clean-cut in terms of its sound (primarily catchy Jpop tunes about growing up), Time ‘n’ Place is more bold and versatile with each song sounding different from each other – it’s impressive that Kero Kero Bonito still puts out catchy tunes despite all that.

13. MGMT – Little Dark Age

mgmt little dark age

Favorite tracks – She Works Out Too Much, Little Dark Age, When You Die, Me and Michael Tslamp, One Thing Left to Try, Hand It Over

I don’t know, lo-fi synth pop got me good in 2018. My only exposure to MGMT so far is this album and Electric Feel – regardless of context, I loved the psychedelic synth passages and the new-wave bass on this LP. The reverbed vocals meshed in extremely well to the sound of the album, the hooks on some of the songs are catchy (like When You Die, Me and Michael, Tslamp) and in others the synth sequencing are infectious (Little Dark Age, One Thing Left to Try and She Works Out Too Much). I can go over how each song appeals to me but I will leave it here by saying that this album has a super cohesive sound yet it sounds more free-flowing and multi-faceted than I anticipated.

12. MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS – No New World

mass of the fermenting dregs no new world

Favorite tracks – New Order, Asahinagu, If Only, Yah Yah Yah, No New World, HuHuHu, Sugar… how about the whole tracklist, huh?

After years of studio silence (a few months for me because I discovered the band around March last year), MoFD returned with their own blend of post-hardcore/shoegaze without skipping a beat, and that’s impressive because Natsuko is the only founding member left in the trio. It’s a short album but it is relatively a lot more versatile – ranging from nostalgic shoegaze to noisy punk rock-type passages to fine-tuned sunny alt-rock tunes. The lengths of the tracks are near perfect, consisting of interesting interludes instead of just being structurally formulaic (verse-chorus-verse). This album is great – it still hasn’t worn off on me in the slightest.

11.  ZOMBIE-CHANG – PETIT PETIT PETIT

zombie chang petit petit petit

Favorite tracks – Lemonade, Iziwaru Bakari Shinaide, Tokidoki Wakaranakunaruno, Mona Lisa, WE SHOULD KISS, Nanka Mukatsu, Onion Slice

Yung, once again, changes things up with her sound on this album – she gathers a supporting band playing live bass and drums. The overall sound maintains that tinge of lo-fi but Yung’s puts way more work on her singing than her previous two albums – and she sounds as uniquely charming as ever. She departs from the bubbly, bedroom pop synths to ones with a stronger new-wave influence, but it’s super groovy and infectious. It’s all great fun – there’s not a single underwhelming track, and the runtime of the LP is perfect. I know I’m not sounding as excited as I should be since I put this in the 11th spot – it’s just that I don’t know enough about the genres Yung blends up in this album to go into explaining the appeal, but you’ll get it when you put this on.

Alright, I’m stopping here. I’ll be back with the second half (top 10) of the list soon.