My Top 10 Records of 2018
Looking back, there were no UK Grime “albums” that hit me hard like the past two years. That’s probably a good thing, because I went pretty far down the grime rabbit hole in 2016-17 and it probably shows in my work. I’ve assembled a bunch of music, in seemingly disparate genres. I pretty much listen to anything, and everything, so long as there’s something for me to grasp onto. Good production. Good songwriting. Good vibes. Punk. Hip-hop. Electronic. Whatever. As long as it’s good. I’m not a genre-purist. Without further ado, here’s a list of albums that kept my attention for repeated listens throughout the year.
Lucero – Among the Ghosts
This is the Lucero record I’ve been waiting for. The last couple records were great, but this record… man… what can I say? These guys leveled up in the songwriting and the production department on this one. Hands down my favorite record of the year. The song, “Bottom of the Sea” just reminds me of The Cure “Disintegration” – rife with lush guitars with long leads and heavy delay. Big vibe and atmosphere for days.
Santigold – I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
Dubby, chilled-out and poppy. Great production and it plays and feels like a DJ mixtape. I love it. This whole album was in constant rotation when it came out. Reminds me of an early summer river tubing excursion with pals. Perfect soundtrack for a relaxing day.
Lorde Fredd33 – Norf: The Legend of Hotboy Ronald
Hometown Milwaukee cat got some love from the folks at Pitchfork. It’s a great record, and it’s killer to see someone from our fair city getting some critical acclaim at high profile publication. I may be a little biased, since Lorde Fredd33 is featured on the Guerrilla Ghost album we just dropped.
Four Fists – 6666
This collaborative album by alt-rap legends, P.O.S. and Astronautilus, kinda snuck up on me. I recall their initial 7" making the rounds on the blogosphere. At the time, I didn’t really pay it any attention. But THIS record. So good. The production is handled by a UK producer (his name escapes me at the moment) – but that totally figures. Of course this is right up my alley since I’ve been stuck on UK Grime producers in recent years. Give this thing a listen, it slaps.
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Let the haters hate. She may have gotten into the rap game from unconventional means, but you know what? This record is entertaining from start to finish and the production is better than most rap records in 2018. I definitely binged on this record for a while. Give it a chance if you’ve dismissed it for being a "pop" record (like I wanted to, but couldn’t.)
Vince Staples – FM!
I’m a bit of a late-comer to Vince Staples. Chuck, the emcee from Guerrilla Ghost, hipped me to his song "Blue Suede" off his "Hell Can Wait" album from 2014. I was sold. I gave 2017’s "Big Fish Theory" quite a few spins, so when "FM!" dropped I was primed. While it’s a short effort, these beats bang. Kenny Beats production is stellar. Seriously. Look his beats up on YouTube. Short and to the point, just leaving you wanting more.
JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
Maybe I’m biased because we’re on the same harsh-noise tape label from Detroit, Trashfuck Records, but dude has been going hard the past few years. I admit, his records are challenging, and it always takes me a little while to wrap my head around his releases.The production is so gnarly and different than anything out right now. I always eventually come around though. (Yo, Peggy, if you’re reading this… holler at me dawg. Let’s book a show in Milwaukee at Cactus Club). His new track, "Puff Daddy", with Kenny Beats is dope af too. Give that a spin once you’re done with "Veteran". I gotta give my dude Chuck from GGHOST for hipping me to PEGGY just before dude blew up.
IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
This band got a lot of hype for their last effort – a personal fave – this is a pretty damn fine record itself. To really enjoy this band, you’ve gotta check out their artsy, and sometime surreal, music videos. I have yet to catch a live show, but I hear they’re something to witness.
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Admittedly, I never really got into this band during their heydey. The old material was so spazzy, it was hard to listen to. In recent years, I scored their first 7" at a Half Price Books and was kinda meh about it. This record though. Reminds me of Swans, Ministry, Jesus Lizard, Neurosis and the like. Controversially, the critical reaction to their latest effort is kinda split. They seem to be media darlings, while some of their stalwart fans dismiss the record as uninspired. Again, let the haters hate. I like this record. It’s sonically insteresting and since I don’t care what they used to sound like, I can find this album appealing without all the baggage their longtime fans have. Best listened to front to back and loudly.
Alias / Doseone – Less is Orchestra
On March 30, 2018 the world lost Brendon Whitney, co-founder of Anticon, an experimental electronic and hip-hop label that fostered the underground weirdo rap scene. I’ve been a long-time fan of Brendon’s solo work, as well as his work with emcees. This particular record, with Doseone (Adam Drucker) – easily the most alien-sounding emcee you might come across. (sidenote: Legend has it, he freestyle battled ’ and lost, but that Em had prepared his material. The two traded demos and parted ways.) Anyways, what I’m trying to say is… listen to this record, it’s great. Two best friends making an amzing record. All Bandcamp proceeds go to benefit Brendan’s surviving family.
Here’s five albums that I listened to quite a bit at points throughout the year, that definitely deserve a shout out. Perhaps I’m cheating by not limiting my selections to just ten.
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare – I See What I Became
This is the third offering from Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and producer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea / Corrections House). The first 7" and second EP were each great pieces of experimental industrial noise, but in this latest full length seems more refined and intricate. What more is there to say? It’s also worth noting that Sanford also contributed a remix to the Guerrilla Ghost – "Everbody Rap: The Remixes" project.
Devils Teeth – Suki Yaki Hot!
I almost put this in my Top 10, but I felt kinda weird putting something on my own label up on this list. It’s a great record, otherwise my pals and I that run Triple Eye Industries wouldn’t have agreed to putting it out. Check it out… it’s a surf rock, party record by some homies here in Milwaukee. Tons of fun. Highly recommended.
Prefuse 73 – Sacrifices
While each record Guillermo Scott Herren puts out gets further and further away from the reason why I liked him in the first place, he doesn’t find himself recreating the same record over and over, and I respect that. He really pushes the boundary of sample-based music. His sound-collage work is usually heavy on vibe and always catches me thinking “How the hell did he make those sounds?”. This record may not be for everyone, but if you’re a Prefuse 73 fan already, this fits in nicely with his body of work.
Dr. Octagon – Moosebumps: An exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation
This is a damn fine Dr. Octo album. Is it as good as the first record? No. But it’s a great record by some talented individuals and deserves a mention. I’ve been listening to Kool Keith for almost 20 years now, and I celebrate his entire catalog. He so prolofic, but it’s really great to see this team of individuals doing another album. Instrumental lovers will be glad to know there’s also an instrumental version available. (Check your local record store for the blue cover.)
Guerrilla Ghost – Perpetually Sad Motion Machine
Ok, so yeah, I know this is my band. But you know what, I’ve listened to this record more than anything on this entire list. From writing demos, to tracking vocals, mixing, assessing masters and performing these songs live, I’ve personally spent countless hours with this material. I’m proud of what Chuck and I have put out into the world.
To make life easy, I created a Spotify playlist with all my favorite jams off these albums. Give it a spin and see if anything sticks.