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2018 Records of the Year

14 Dec Ask Greg, News | Comments
2018 Records of the Year

Welcome back!

2018 was a weird one. It was a fundamental shift in how I explore, discover, consume, and enjoy my music. I tried to be more active on Spotify, which stole from my traditional discovery system of Bandcamp. I downloaded way less, but streamed way more. Double edged sword, as I heard more than usual, but I feel like I did rely on having the files on hand for my end of year review. Having said that, a lot of this will just be via memory.

I used to put these in order. I’m over that. It’s so specific to the day I actually sit down and put fingers on the keys. So, enjoy this random list of music I loved. I hope you love it too.

As always, here are the previous lists:
2017, 2016 , 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010

2018 Records
Pinegrove – Skylight
I had given up hope. I didn’t think we’d see another Pinegrove release. Then one day, with no announcement, NEW PINEGROVE. It was the perfect fall record. The songs are beautiful, complex, understated, and just perfect. It’s a strange brand of indie rock, and I’m not quite sure how I’d describe it. But I don’t need to, because you can click the link, and here some wonderful music.

S.Carey – Hundred Acres
When this record came out, I was certain it would be record of the year. Sadly, I still had ten more months of music to chew on, so it may have been bumped a little. BUT, it is still one of the most beautiful records I’ve heard this year. Organic folk music with dense instrumentation, and soft, gorgeous vocals. Referencing that he’s Justin Vernon’s no.2 musician in Bon Iver under cuts how goddamned amazing Sean is on his own accord. Each release has just gotten better and better.

Thrice – Palms
If you’ve followed these posts over the years, you’ve seen thrice on this list. For some reason, despite how much I LOVED the last record, I wasn’t overly jazzed on PALMS. But you know what? It’s a great record. The production is incredible, the songs are incredible. It’s just a great alt/rock record. Beautiful lyrics floating over songs that border on ballad to hard rock. Thrice never fails me.

Novo Amor – Birthplace
I get it. It sounds like older Bon Iver. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Justin Vernon is VERY flattered. But, I don’t care. This record is stunning. It’s beautiful instrumentation, production, and vocal melodies. I absolutely adore every moment of this record, and it will be getting a lot of snowy, wintery plays. Just perfect, front to back.

Vennart – To Cure A Blizzard Upon A Plastic Sea
Mike eff’n Vennart. I don’t get it. His unique brand of proggy British pop music just owns me. I love Oceansize. I love the Vennart solo stuff. His previous release was damned near record of the year a couple years ago. This one is its equal. I absolutely LOVE it. The songs are perfect. Spacey, heavy, drop G, melodic, chaotic. There isn’t anything else like it.

Lo moon – s/t
One day, I heard something that felt like “All I need” covered by Talk Talk, but poppier. Dimly lit, back room vibes, but with perfect pop sensibilities. It was Lo Moon. It’s not something I’d normally think I’d enjoy, but hot-damn, this record is flawless. It was produced by Chris Walla (a hero), and it just has the perfect mood. It is my ultimate night driving record, and I love every second of it.

Hidden hospitals – Liars
Every thing HH has released has been on one of my lists. Liars absolutely belongs. The 60% rock band, 40% electronic dichotomy has finally flipped. This collection of songs is anthemic, layered, dense, moody, and just perfectly massive. How they aren’t just one of the biggest bands out there, I don’t understand. Chicago is fortunate to have them “local”.

Failure – In The Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind
Failure is one of my all time favorite bands, having released an all-time, top-10 record for me. The world thought they were done in 1996, but they reunited a few years ago, to great fanfare. They decided to be experimental with the release of this record, by putting them online in 4 song batches. I feel like that ultimately stole the impact of the final / whole record. I wasn’t ever really in love with the 4 song releases, but as a whole? Pretty terrific. This is just another solid rock record by a trio who take their craft seriously.

Hopesfall – Arbiter
I definitely never thought I’d see this. A NEW hopesfall record? I thought they were done! Broken up forever. But that wasn’t the case. They reunited, and released a pretty incredible followup to 07’s Magnetic North. It’s a killer spacey, proggy, post hardcore record.

Lume – Wrung Out
I first learned of Lume when they hopped on a show at The Oasis, our local teen center. They do the down tempo wall of sound as good as anyone. This record is part grunge, part post hardcore, and just an absolute stunner from front to back. It is SO so good.

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t really an on-brand selection. What can I say, good is good, and this is good. I initially cast her off as another pop country girl, but her NPR Tiny Desk opened my eyes. This record is beautiful. Moody. Quirky. The songs are great, and her voice is terrific.

Foxing – Nearer My God
This record is an emotional journey. It’s dense, chaotic, and gorgeous indie rock. Walla knocked another production out of the park (his second record on this list, with Lo Moon). I know that their sound can be a bit abrasive, but when it clicks, it’s perfect.

Jaye Jayle – No Trail and Other Unholy Paths
Jaye just knows how to capture the mood. The entire record has this dark cloud looming over it. Sparse, wide, deep, atmospheric indie rock record. I hesitate to say songs, because I feel like the record is single serving. All or nothing. When I read that it was produced by David Lynch’s music director, it felt so right.

Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
You have no reason to think these bands who come back from the dead should put out good music now. But, I feel like if I liked them once, I may just be inclined to like them again. Failure & Hopesfall both being listed examples. Chaotic, driving, angular, noisy, heavy. Just a great record.

Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Holy Crap. What a record. I don’t know how to describe it to you. Experimental, Heavy, Angry, Lush…..and just utterly fascinating. The production is massive, the songs are just absolutely absolutely unpredictable. It took me probably 4 listens to just feel like it wasn’t dragging me with it. Absolute unhinged creativity in heavy music. Perfect.

Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
How does Reznor keep writing edgy, experimental, provocative music? It’s just a great ride. Hearing him play some avant-garde sax really adds another dimension. He does no wrong in my book.


Records I loved, but maybe didn’t make the Top Ten* (above).
*not 10


Minus The Bear – Fair Enough
A final EP from one of my all time all timers.

Dead Now – S/T
Driving Sabbathy Van Halen Stoner Indie Rock? One of the best live performances I saw in ’18.

Sumac – Love in Shadow
This almost made it into the top records. Heaviest music I enjoyed in ’18.

Rayland Baxter – Wide Awake
Butch Walker produced a Beatles meets Alt Country record.

Mouth Captain – S/T
Instrumental Lap Steel / Percussion. Gorgeous. A must.

David Bazan – Rare Coins Split
The Bazan side of this split is so terrific.

Options – Vivid Trace
Amazing one man band from Chicago. Indie, Mathy, Poppy.

Ovlov – Tru
Killer indie rock record. Just feels good. I’m not sure how to describe it.

Foxwarren – S/T
Just really well done slow / soft indie, almost like early Dawes.

Big Red Machine – S/T
Justin Vernon meets The National. Not a description. Literally both of them.

Monobody – Raytracing
Incredibly technical jazzy math rock? Two Basses. Two. Dos.

Pianos Become The Teeth – Wait For Love
Brooding indie rock with a meticulous production. Shiny.

Sleep – The Sciences
A surprise release from the riffy stoner rock kings.

Polyphia – New Levels New Devils
Shreddy jazzy technical hip hop over reggae kids. I’m not sure what it is, but it shreds.

Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
Snarky, well produced indie pop. He is really feeling himself these days.

Big Jesus – Not a Dreamer
Big modern smashing pumpkins meets O’Brother vibe. Riffs!

Low – Double Negative
Low just keeps delivering their strange brand of down-tempo noisy, fascinating wizardry.


Somehow forgot these came out in 2018!

Cursive – Vitrola
Tim & co. assembled another terrific & complex collection of songs. It’s been fun to musically mature along with them.

Lifted Bells – Minor Tantrums
One of Chicago’s best bands. Just a pile of amazingly talented dudes shredding through some extremely fun songs. A guitar player’s band, for sure. Matt Frank Shreds.

Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance

Teenage Wrist – Chrome Neon Jesus


A few other things I’d recommend taking for a virtual spin:


Eels – The Deconstruction

Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt

Carseat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

Johnny Marr – Call the Comet

Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo


The Joy Formidable – Aaarth

Drug Church – Cheer


Non 2018 records that received the most play.


Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack

Manchester Orchestra – Cope


Songs Of The Year:


Hidden Hospitals “Better Off”

Kacey Musgraves “Butterflies”

S.Carey “True North”

Lo Moon – Real Love

Foxwarren “To Be”

Thrice “Beyond the Pines”

William Fitzsimmons “Second Hand Smoke”

David Bazan “Opposite Soul”

Manchester Orchestra “I Know How To Speak”


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