Music is alive and well. Here are some favorites from records I listened to this year.
Be the Cowboy – Mitski
Mitski has beautiful momentum since Puberty 2. Her latest, Be the Cowboy, ups the ante. (more)
The Tree of Forgiveness – John Prine
Septuagenarian John Prine has honed his craft for well over 50 years and never once had to twerk.
Kids See Ghosts – Kanye West & Kid Cudi
Cudi’s record is the best of Kanye’s multiple releases in 2018, tweets aside.
boygenius – boygenius
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus join forces as boygenius for an EP that’ll play you like a violin.
Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film) – Thom Yorke
Haven’t seen the movie yet, but this record paints a vivid picture on its own.
Things Have Changed – Bettye LaVette
The freshest take on Dylan since Dylan.
Look Now – Elvis Costello
Elvis is incapable of making a mediocre album. (more)
I’ll Be Your Girl – The Decemberists
A well-oiled music-making machine – it was fun to hear them play with synths this year.
Twentytwo in Blue – Sunflower Bean
Shoulda hit the big time with this decidedly Fleetwood Mac–flavored record.
Rock 2 – The Dean Ween Group
You can expect more of these beer–smelling solo records until Ween make new music.
This is America – Childish Gambino
One of the best songs of the year, and definitely the best video.
Superoganism – Superoganism
These kids can play on my lawn any day. (more)
Sparkle Hard – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
The voice of Pavement makes another solid record with The Jicks.
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love – Deafheaven
Alls I know is… this song helped me out this year.
Burning Daylight – Blake Morgan
Restored and remastered version of Blake’s sophomore album shines like a diamond. (more)
Pinkus Abortion Technician – Melvins
A good reminder from the drunk uncle of grunge.
Wide Awake! – Parquet Courts
Some solid tracks, but I wanted to like this collab with Danger Mouse more.
Thank You For Today – Death Cab for Cutie
Latest record has some fans burning their membership cards, and others fainting into their lattes. (more)
Aquarelle – Jesse Harris
Caught Jesse twice in NYC this year and dug his shit.
Egypt Station – Paul McCartney
Inconsistent record from the most consistent artist of his generation. (more)
Kumi – Blak Emoji
Blew the ceiling of Arlene’s Grocery this year.
Down The Road Wherever – Mark Knopfler
Mark’s solo records continue to hit the sweet spot.
Lil Peep & XXXTENTACION – Falling Down
Posthumously released earworm.
Janita – Three Songs She’d Love to Have Written
Janita’s newest album Here Be Dragons is another in a progression of finely crafted hymns for the empowered. Whether by love, as in the silky “I Do,” or by subverting expectations, in the Beatlesesque “Not What You’re Used To,” Janita draws on lessons learned during a positively unique career that spans decades and continents. We caught up with Janita on the heels of her latest single “When It’s All Up To You” to find out three songs she’d love to have written.
Elliott Smith — “L.A.”
This is one of my favorite songs by Elliott Smith. I listened to the full album Figure 8 a lot while I was writing the songs on my new album, and it was a huge influence on me both melodically and lyrically. This song in particular has also informed some of the production choices we made later, like the heavier guitars you hear on my song “Not What You’re Used To.”
“L.A.” is incredibly melodic, but there’s an elusive, haunting quality to it. It feels like you’re always trying to reach it, catch up to it somehow. The backing vocals accentuate that feeling. In my mind, the song paints such a vivid picture of the ephemeral, fickle nature of L.A., and the similarly transient nature of the main character. Elliott Smith himself? I don’t know exactly how he does (did) it, but I’m certainly in awe of it.
Radiohead — “There There”
So hypnotic. So badass. Could the production possibly be any cooler? The melody is intricate and beautiful, and I can relate to the lyric from every which angle: as the singer, as the one being sung to, and whether in love relationships, friendships, or with total strangers. The subject matter simply comes up in life in so many ways all the time… I recently tried to express similar notions as I was writing a song, only to remember that it was already done here perfectly. Goddammit.
Punch Brothers — “Julep”
This song is simply magical to me. It’s made me bawl my eyes out at a Punch Brothers concert two separate times. It’s like that viral video that was circulating some years ago of a baby moved to tears when her mom sings a sad tune. I’m that baby when it comes to this song. It simply hits some sort of primal button in me and keeps pressing it until the very end.
While you’re at it, check out Janita’s video for “Digging in the Dirt,” a funky and faithful rendition of the Peter Gabriel classic.
New Music – Bachelor
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner join forces as Bachelor – a musical powerhouse whose new record Doomin’ Sun drops May 28th on Polyvinyl.
Kemper and Duterter recorded the album during two weeks of mutual appreciation in California. Three visceral singles have been released in the lead-up, including the Pixies-flavored “Stay in the Car” and the sprawling “Anything At All.”
Bachelor has also announced the Doomin’ Sun Fest, a one-day livestream featuring Tegan & Sara, Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Japanese Breakfast, Julien Baker, and more.
Self-Serving Interview with Electronic Device Does Little to Advance Musician’s Career
Two men that look suspiciously alike meet outside a fictitious Brooklyn hot-spot – six feet apart.
MC Krispy E: Very nice to meet you. (squints) Have we met before?
Electronic Device: Maybe?
MC Krispy E: Is the rest of the band joining us?
Electronic Device: (pause) I am the rest of the band.
MC Krispy E: You are Electronic Device? What’s that about?
Electronic Device: Uhm, yeah, it’s like a pen name. You know what that is, right?
MC Krispy E: I have some idea.
Electronic Device: It was actually the name of one of my dad’s companies back in the day before…
MC Krispy E: (looking at his watch) Wonderful. So… it says here you have a new single called “All Things Come to an End” inspired by the death of your brother.
Electronic Device: Yeah, after my brother died I recorded songs as a form of therapy in his old bedroom in Staten Island.
MC Krispy E: And now I read that you have cancer. Am I supposed to feel extra sorry for you?
Electronic Device: Uhm…
MC Krispy E: It sounds like this album is going to be super depressing.
Electronic Device: It’s not, I swear. I was looking for some happiness while recording these songs, there’s not much of an agenda beyond that.
MC Krispy E: What kind of music is it?
Electronic Device: I wasn’t really thinking about influences while recording, but listening back I hear some Concrete Blonde, some Cracker.
MC Krispy: So bands no one is interested in?
Electronic Device: What the hell, man?
MC Krispy: Sorry, it’s almost like I can’t help it. What’s the single about?
Electronic Device: I hate saying what a song is about because everything is up for interpretation.
MC Krispy E: Humor us.
Electronic Device: I can say that “All Things Come to an End” has multiple narrators, some of which are unreliable.
MC Krispy E: (stares)
Electronic Device: And that one day I was at my Dad’s house and when I turned the corner into the hallway my Dad thought I was my brother for a moment, which was super sad because of course I couldn’t be.
MC Krispy E: And then you wrote a whole song about that.
Electronic Device: I guess so. When you put it that way…
MC Krispy E: (yawning) Tell us when the single come out.
Electronic Device: The single is out now. The album comes out in 2021.
MC Krispy E: Well, good for you. And good luck with that cancer thing.
Electronic Device: Yeah, you too.
MC Krispy E: Thanks. What?