Top 100 Albums of 2018: #75-51

#75: Preoccupations, New Material
Goth electronica, like an angrier, less dance-friendly New Order with pounding percussion. “Decompose” is driven by an urgent triplet bass figure and augmented by a downward trill like someone strumming piano strings. “Antidote” features similar triplet tom action that lifts the chanted warning of the chorus into an intense experience.
#74: Kaia Kater, Grenades
The first Grenadian-Canadian musician to make my top 100! (Actually the first Grenadian-Canadian artist I’ve listened to period.) This album is a series of ruminations on her background (her father immigrated to Canada from Grenada as a teenager) and upbringing, a wonderful collection, particularly at a time when issues of national and ethnic identity are playing out in ways big and small. Her main instrument is the banjo but played in more of a strummed and plucked low-key way than the fast paced banjo associated with bluegrass. Interspersed with the songs are her father’s recollections of the Grenadian government of the mid-1980s that was overthrown by a U.S. invasion. “Meridian Ground” may be my favorite track, a beautiful and evocative description of harbor life.
#73: The Vaccines, Combat Sports
Hook-laden, high energy, swaggering Brit rock
#72: Jeff Rosenstock, POST-
Dropped without warning on January 1, 2018, this third solo album from the punk/ska-rock veteran is a blast of punk energy. “USA” is a highlight with its multiple sections, including soaring moments and a chanted downbeat “tired and bored” chorus.
#71: Albert Hammond, Jr., Francis Trouble
The fourth solo album from the Strokes’ rhythm guitarist and occasional keyboardist could easily pass for a Strokes album: simple, catchy, upbeat rock ‘n’ roll with singalong choruses.
#70: Aaron Lee Tasjan, Karma For Cheap
Classic rock songwriting with a ‘60s and ‘70s flavor. “Set You Free” is an awesome singalong stomper and my favorite track on the album.
#69: Lucie Silvas, E.G.O.
A music industry veteran who has had much better success writing songs for other people than with her own albums (EMI refused to release her first album, and Mercury Records dropped her after her second album – really the third – didn’t do well), I really wish people would listen to her finely honed pop-rock. Unfortunately her bad luck seems to have continued as this album (#4 released, #5 recorded) didn’t chart. I don’t understand why not. Songs like “First Rate Heartbreak” and “Black Jeans” are gems.
#68: Arthur Buck, Arthur Buck
The first album from the combination of Joseph Arthur and Peter Buck (former guitarist for R.E.M. and all around prolific guitarist, songwriter and producer) combines their two influences nicely. Arthur carries most of the vocal load and produced, while Buck brings his creative guitar and other instrumental work to the table. The result is a highly topical and interesting collection of indie rock, often with a dramatic and mysterious edge.
#67: Amanda Shire, To the Sunset
An eclectic mix of styles flavor this outing from the solo artist and member of The 400 Unit “Parking Lot Pirouette” is a powerful opener, electric piano, and distorted violin and guitar providing an atmospheric backing to her R.E.M.-like melody. “Charms” is a straightforward and sweet country-rocker whereas electronic beats power “Leave It Alone.” And “Eve’s Daughter” rocks like The 400 Unit as their most rocking.
#66: Rainbow Kitten Surprise, How to: Friend, Love, Freefall
I might have included this album just for the band’s name alone! As befitting a quirky name, the music is pretty experimental and creative with a playful edge. Several tunes (“Mission to Mars” and “It’s Called: Freefall” for example) have a Modest Mouse vibe, but their sound is broader than this, as illustrated by the driving and booming “Matchbox.”
#65: Mitski, Be the Cowboy
Simply brilliant, exceptionally well crafted pop music. “Nobody” with its slinky, sexy little chorus is a gem, as well as being a little less serious than the rest of the album.
#64: Priscilla Renea, Coloured
Better known for the songs she’s written for others (Rihanna, Mariah Carey), Renea’s Coloured (sic) is a simply fabulous collection of country and blues-flavored pop, inventively played and beautifully sung.
#63: AURORA, Infections of a Different Kind (Step 1)
The second album (note that she refers to this as an EP but given that it’s 33 minutes, it exceeds my 30 minutes threshold to classify it as a full album) from the Norwegian singer-songwriter continues her growth as a songwriter and the formula of catchy yet sophisticated orchestral pop.
#62: Death Cab for Cutie, Thank You For Today
20 years into their career and Death Cab for Cutie still produces satisfying indie rock, this time with a low- tempo melancholy air on many tunes.
#61: The Aces, When My Heart Felt Volcanic
While this debut album breaks one of my self-imposed (and probably ridiculous, in this day and age) rules of having six producers (producer shopping just comes across as too focused on commercial success rather than letting the music speak for itself), this is just beautifully crafted pop rock by this group of four women from Provo, Utah (which I would probably, and perhaps unfairly, assume is not an indie-rock hotbed). Definitely a HAIM feel. The lyrics are all about love. “Lovin’ Is Bible” is pretty good metaphor.
#60: Car Seat Headrest, Twin Fantasy
It’s hard to even decide whether or not to include this as a 2018 album since, like the albums before it, it’s a re-recording of one of his original bedroom recordings. Not quite as strong an outing as Teens of Style or Teens of Denial, but still one of the most interesting groups (at least it’s a group now) out there: hooky garage rock with offhand vocals and shouted or screamed choruses. This is epic garage rock, if that’s even possible. “Famous Prophets (Stars)” is over 16 minutes with multiple sections.
#59: Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel
Not quite the blast of fresh air that was her 2015 debut (Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit), but still a sweet bit of lo-fi garage rock, anchored in her offhand vocals and hooky choruses.
#58: Kadhja Bonet, Childqueen
I’ve seen Kadhja Bonet’s music described as “psychedelic soul” and it sure starts that way: the opening track has a whole “Age of Aquarius” vibe. There’s more to it than that, however, as she covers a wide range of ground from the torch song of “Delphine” to the slick electronic dance vibe of “Thoughts Around Tea.”
#57: Ty Segall, Freedom’s Goblin
I can’t keep track of this guy’s output. A picture of him should appear next to the dictionary entry for “prolific.” Last I heard, he released four albums in 2018. I only listened to two, this solo record and a collaboration with White Fence, and maybe the other two sucked but there isn’t a single wasted moment on the albums I listened to. Freedom’s Goblin is more of Segall’s trademarked hard rock riffing. His music owes more than a little to ‘70s rock bands, but his sheer talent and creativity makes this much more than just a rehash.
#56: Lenny Kravitz, Raise Vibration
Lenny can still pull off a great song, whether a rock song like “We Can Get It Together” or the riffy title track, or the funk of “Low” or “It’s Enough,” or the sweet ballad “Johnny Cash.” He must keep them in a drawer somewhere…
#55: Superchunk, What a Time to Be Alive
The veteran indie rock band’s 11th release is a straightforward collection of finely honed, fast-paced rockers that just screams “Rock ‘n’ roll is still alive!”
#54: Liz Cooper & The Stamped, Window Flowers
Thank goodness Liz Cooper gave up on her golf scholarship, moved to Nashville and pursued a musical career instead. Otherwise we wouldn’t have sweet slices of sunny pop like “Kaleidoscope Eyes” or ‘70s-inflected light rock numbers like “Fondly & Forever.”
#53: Becky Warren, Undesirable
Yes, the album cover is a picture of a garbage dump, and it’s just about perfect for this collection of songs about the left behind, the homeless, the traumatized, the folks in “flyover” territory. “We’ve All We Got” captures the essential message here.
#52: Tom Morello, The Atlas Underground
More like a Rage Against the Machine album than the acoustic protest folk he produces under The Night Watchman name, this showcases Morello’s always interesting and intense electric guitar work. He’s supported by a who’s who of the music world representing folk, hip-hop, house and rock. The music swings, grinds, shouts and pops.
#51: MGMT, Little Dark Age
Only their 4th album in a career that start in the early-2000s, this is a fun, upbeat bunch of dance-rock songs. I love the cheesy opener, “She Works Out Too Much.” And “TSLAMP” slinks along with a rumination about our time on electronic devices.

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