Hey, it’s “Oh look at me! I listen to soo much music”- kun here and it’s time for me to go through the top half of my top 20 favorite albums. If you missed the first part, click here.
So yeah, here’s my Top 10:
10. KOTO – Bye Bye Teens Lullaby
Favorite tracks: Tiger Fire Cyber Fighter, Dancing like a Snail, Dead or Kawaii, Midnight Houdai, Taikutsu ga Tomaranai, Lonely Kong, Bye Bye Teens Lullaby, Tottemo Good na BBQ… yeah, it’s the entire tracklist
Honestly, if I finalized this list in mid-December, Zombie-Chang’s album would have been in this spot, but this one grew on me like a bacterial culture… but in a good, infectiously cute way. This album is like a bag of treats – each tasting slightly different from each other but they are all equally sweet, there’s not a single underwhelming track on this thing. Sasaki Cafe’s manic, 80s-influenced production on the tracks have dizzyingly layered synth-leads, there’s some good funk in the bass and synths here and there, and KOTO’s kawaii vocal performances somehow tie up these crazy dance-pop songs with nice little bows. I don’t know, the sound of the album is intended to be retro but the intense danceable energy of the tracks give a strange futuristic tinge to it. Dare I say I like this album slightly more than her other fantastic album, Platonic Planet?
9. Clarence Clarity – THINK: PEACE
Favorite tracks: Adam & The Evil, W€ CHANG£, Naysayer, Vapid Feels Ain’t Vapid, Next Best Thing, Tru(e) Love, Law of Fives, 2016
CC’s return with a more cohesive and pop-oriented album had me pleasantly surprised with how well he balanced the glitchy and pop elements and clarified the album’s themes through better lyricism and through more emotive vocal performances. Sure, his debut album No Now was sonically more interesting but it was longer, was kind of all over the place, and felt kind of incomplete – so his new album is definitely an improvement on those fronts. Even with a brighter, pop-like production, Clarence showcases a wide palette of styles with different flavors of dense, trippy synth leads. It feels futuristic and I was addicted to it for a long time.
8. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence
Favorite tracks: NEW ORLEANS, BERLIN, SOMETHING ABOUT HIM, WHERE THE CASH AT, WEIGHT, DISTRICT, J’OUVERT, HONEY, SAN MARCOS, TONYA, FABRIC
I’m glad that Brockhampton tried something out of their “comfort” zone and made a raw, experimental oddball of an album… okay, it’s not that “out there” of a record but the producers and songwriters had the intent to make it a more mature release than usual. Brockhampton blends up a lot of genres and explores different stylistic avenues on this record while laying down some repetitive motifs to make the tracks feel like they are from the same album – I wouldn’t say they did a perfect job of it, but I found it enjoyable nonetheless. There were some really overwhelmingly emotional cuts on this LP, like Kevin’s opening verse for Weight, the entirety of Tonya and the ending choir chorus of San Marcos. Sure, there are some faults and rough edges, but I really resonated with the great parts of the record.
7. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Favorite tracks: Violence, Mardi Gras Beads, Almost Had to Start a Fight/ In and Out of Patience, Freebird II, Wide Awake, NYC Observation, Death will Bring Change, Tenderness
This funky art-punk record/post-punk record is always exciting to listen through because of how Parquet Courts pick up elements from punk and funk and implement them into their songs so effortlessly and cohesively in this album. There are times in the album where Savage and crew jam out these angry yet dancy tunes like Violence and Almost Had to Start a Fight, while other times the instrumentation gets more textured but the bassline groove never dies. Every instrument pops, and so do the thoughtful socio-political lyrics – I particularly like the lyrics on Violence and Almost Had to Start a Fight. Every track feels part of the album even though they are composed of different styles.
6. Seiko Oomori – Kusokawa Party
Favorite tracks: Shinigami, ZOC Jikkenshitsu, Reality Magic, GIRL’S GIRL, Last Dance, Amoeba no Koi, Watashimi, Kimoikawa
Yeah, like I said in my review of the album, the record grew on me throughout the latter half of 2018. Half of the tracklist feature some crazy, grimy, punk party tracks like ZOC Jikkenshitsu, Reality Magic, Last Dance and GIRL’S GIRL while the other half of the tracklist consist of intimate ballad-types which reach these strong emotional crescendos that send goosebumps across my neck despite me not knowing Japanese. Sure, on initial listen the album seemed a bit dual sided, but I found more versatility in the production and performances of the tracks the more I listened through the album. It’s great and Seiko Oomori is one of my favorite personalities in Jpop (or J-music in general) right now.
5. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Favorite tracks: Geyser, Why Didn’t You Stop Me?, Old Friend, A Pearl, Lonesome Love, Me and My Husband, Come Into the Water, Nobody, Pink in the Night, Washing Machine Heart, Blue Light, Two Slow Dancers (yeah, almost the entire tracklist)
Mitski definitely had been a charismatic singer-songwriter in the indie-scene in 2018 and it’s great to see her getting the acclamation she deserves last year. Mitski conjures up these short-story-like scenes with specific moods and emotions in her songs so effectively. The production sounds more mood-inducingly spacious compared to her previous indie-rock centric buzzing soundscapes in Puberty 2, and there’s more variation in the instrumentals in this record. Her vocal performances are one of my favorites of 2018 – she knew where and how to manipulate her vocals for each track. I feel this strong intimacy with her performances whenever I listen through this album, it’s hypnotic. Her lyrics are poetic even though it feels more like she’s describing scenes in her songs. I don’t know, whenever I put this album on, it feels like pure magical escapism.
4. Death Grips – Year of the Snitch
Favorite tracks: Death Grips is Online, Flies, Black Paint, Hahaha, Shitshow, Streaky, The Fear, Outro, Disappointed
I love this new palette of sound Death Grips experimented with on this album – it’s more lo-fi and grimy compared to their previous high fidelity abrasive noisy, industrial rap bangers. They bring out more rock-centric tunes since (probably) Jenny Death, MC Ride sounds tamer here but he still got a strong presence as usual. I think the album is probably one of their most diverse collection of tracks they have put out so far, there’s something for everyone (well, almost everyone) – if you like DG for their abrasiveness, then Black Paint’s the song for you. If you want some horror show type shit then listen to The Fear. If you like something bright and bubbly, then Streaky will scratch that itch. Want something weirdly danceable? Linda’s in Custody got you covered. Throwing up a rave? Death Grips is Online. I could go on. Listen to the album if you didn’t like Death Grips for you, maybe this one will change that.
3. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Favorite tracks: Long Road No Turns, Satan in the Wait, The Flammable Man, The Lords Song, Less Sex, The Reason They Hate Me, Ocean Song, Guest House
Of course, I wouldn’t have checked out this album if the Melon didn’t give it a 10/10 (I know, I’m a big Fantanohead). But this album is actually that fantastic. I listened through some of Daughters’ discography before listening to this one – although they changed from fast grindcore sound to a more patient and atmospheric one, they remain as wild and ominous as ever. Listening through the LP feels like a cinematic horror experience. However there’s something addictive about the album listening experience, it’s like the rush we get from watching scary and twisted stuff. The lyrics are grim, violent yet it’s poetic, they seem to describe scenes and the harsh, tempestuous instrumentation makes them all the more vivid – they make the listener see those shattering of glass, flying sparks, a burning house, somebody is trapped in there. It’s not every day I listen to something as cinematic and harrowing as this album.
2. Haru Nemuri – Haru to Shura
Favorite tracks: MAKE MORE NOISE OF YOU, Narashite, Haru to Shura, Lost Planet, Sekai wo Torikae Shite Okure, Yoru wo Oyoi Deta, Nineteen, Yume wo Miyou, Rock n’ Roll wa Shinanari with Totsuzen Shonen, and all the remix tracks
With a cohesive collection of tracks flavored with a taste-making (and taste expanding) concoction of various genres, Haru Nemuri’s Haru to Shura rang out through the alternative/underground music scene in 2018 and got people to rave about it. Personally, I am not knee-deep into the Japanese underground music scene but it’s pretty obvious how masterfully Haru carved out her own album that feels anthemic, youthful and overwhelming. I love the fuzzy production on the LP, it drowns me in Haru’s overarching soundscape and puts bridges between her different styles of songs in the album. Haru’s vocal delivery is soulful and changes with her experimental instrumentation – she sings airily, raps nonchalantly like spoken word poetry and develops a growl in some choruses. The instrumentation sounds almost always punchy – the drums sound organic, the synths sound bright and bubbly, the guitars sound deep. All of my favorite albums are addictive to listen to and Haru to Shura is no exception.
1. Jack White – Boarding House Reach
Favorite tracks: Connected by Love, Why Walk a Dog?, Corporation, Hypermisophoniac, Ice Station Zebra, Over and Over and Over, Everything You’ve Ever Learned, Respect Commander, Get in the Mind Shaft, What’s Done is Done, Humoresque
If you read my review of the album back in August, you wouldn’t be surprised that this album is my number one pick. I wasn’t really familiar with Jack White’s (and The White Stripes’) massive discography before listening through this album, but I fell in love with the raw, unhinged personality of this project within the first couple of listens and it has only grown on me since then – I would even say I love more tracks from the album than I did while writing that review. A majority of the tracklist consists of these instrumentally indulgent jams which I never get tired of listening through, Jack White strays away from his classic blues-rock sound and moves into more electronic-oriented, experimental pastures – and he explores every artistic avenue he could think of, track by track. Lyrically he speaks on long-distance relationships, the absurdity of humanizing pets, how true originality doesn’t really exist, corporations created from vague hype, and so much more. Jack even raps, he showcases on ambient spoken word tracks, dips his toes in classical music, plays with alien synth loops, then he comes full circle and jams out tracks structurally similar to his previous works. Speaking of which, I went back and listened to some of White Stripes’ and his solo discography – and with that context, I ended up loving Boarding House Reach even more. It feels like a bold artistic statement and more punk than most punk albums.
And that concludes my first year-end list. There’s more to come – it will probably be March by the time I finish all the lists but I’m enjoying writing these.
Oh and feel free to share your favorite albums from 2018 – I’m always open to recommendations.
Thanks for reading.