Max’s Top 10 of 2018
Max simon ‘19
Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
It was hard to escape indie-rock queen Courtney Barnett in 2018. Coming off last year’s lighthearted collaboration with Kurt Vile, Barnett turned her gaze inwards: crafting a set of songs that pitches her against the troubles of our modern world. While arrogant men and condescending women still populate Tell Me How You Really Feel, they set the stage for raw self-analysis that packs a punch when paired with her heavier, looser instrumentation.
Pinegrove - Skylight
After a year of inactivity, Pinegrove self-released their third album Skylight to a quiet but celebratory fanbase yearning for their return. Evan Stephens Hall’s songwriting is excruciatingly self-reflective as he traces the downfall of a poisoned relationship against a plaintive, Southern-influenced backdrop. Compared to the vigor of 2016’s Cardinal, Skylight feels like a bleary Sunday morning spent trying to piece back together the previous night’s mistakes.
Wand - Perfume EP
While there is no shortage of psychedelic bands littering festival lineups, Wand lets their freak flag fly high above the rest. Building off of the band-oriented dynamics of Plum, Perfume dials back in some of the more abrasive experimentation of their earlier work to create their best offering to date. The EP works in three distinct parts linked by ambient instrumentals: the eerie “Perfume” and “Town Meeting” segues into (relatively) poppier tracks “The Gift” and “Pure Romance” before settling into the band’s finest ballad, “I Will Keep You Up”. Given the band's prolific reputation, expect an equally mind-altering follow-up in the coming months.
Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo
An art major, a hip-hop producer, and a psych-rock guitarist enter a barn in Texas to record their sophomore album, and what comes out? Well, an album influenced by 1960s Thai-funk, naturally. In tandem with their diverse backgrounds, Khruangbin’s music defies genres as they blend eclectic influences into their sound. The instrumentation is sparse yet, expansive, furthering the brilliance of their debut record.
Ty Segall - Freedom’s Goblin
Among the five albums Segall released this year (beat that, Kanye), the sprawling double-album Freedom’s Goblin reigns supreme. The length of the album only highlights Segall’s flexibility as an artist as he effortlessly shifts between thrashing punk freakouts, acoustic ruminations, disco covers, and whatever else influenced by his massive record collection. Read my full review of Freedom’s Goblin here.
Snail Mail - Lush
Every time I listen to nineteen-year-old Lindsey Jordan’s full-length debut as Snail Mail, I can’t help but become jealous. Her melodies - vocally as well as instrumentally - ring more clearly than anyone else in the indie-rock scene, and the emotional depth of her lyrics capture teenage uncertainty in unparalleled ways, wisely depicting the fears many lovesick teens are never able to articulate. Snail Mail’s Lush solidifies Jordan as a name to watch in the coming years.
Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino
Before TBHC, I would not have called myself an Arctic Monkeys fan by any stretch of the imagination, so when a friend recommended the album to me, I nearly dismissed it entirely. Yet, something about this project felt different. I was instantly greeted with a completely new sound - equal parts Cat’s Cradle, Honky Chateau-era Elton John, and Blade Runner. The album is a sci-fi influenced depiction of modern culture, detailing the downfall of civilization through the lens of a space-age lounge lizard.
Jeff Tweedy - WARM
It wouldn’t be wrong to assume Jeff Tweedy’s new album would be a watered down version of his main gig, Wilco, as he is the only other remaining member of the band that mainly serves as his songwriting vehicle. When paired with his new memoir, however, WARM serves as a revealing document unique to his catalog. Death, drug addiction, fatherhood, and marriage seep their way into Tweedy’s songwriting, providing a vulnerable basis for some of his most experimental music yet.
King Tuff - The Other
After King Tuff’s sophomore album Black Moon Spell, California’s resident garage-rock barnstormer found himself coming down from years of loud gigs and heavy partying. He began an intense period of reflection that manifested itself in The Other, a collection of songs more concerned with the state of our culture than partying. His growth is immediately apparent, as ballads, acoustic guitars, harmonies, and other flourishes fill the space once consumed by blaring electric guitars.
Foxwarren - Foxwarren
Much like the sepia-toned front cover, Foxwarren is a warm album from start to finish, buoyed by Andy Shauf’s consistently poetic lyrics. While the music is rooted in softer rock sounds from the ’60s and ’70s, modern production and instrumental embellishments keep the music fresh instead of falling into predictable retro-rock.