01) Dr. Dog - Critical Equation (We Buy Gold Records)
Only one album can hold the top-spot and this year, Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog gets the nod. Simply put, I did not hear a better written, recorded, or produced album in 2018. “Critical Equation” has many of the elements that make up a great rock album including great songs, great arrangements, and great musicianship. With influences including 60’s pop and 70’s rock, Dr. Dog borrowed from the past to produce a really great record.
Link: Buzzing In The Light
02) Parquet Courts - Wide Awake! (Rough Trade Records)
Take a great band like Parquet Courts, put them in the studio with a gifted producer like Danger Mouse, and hit record. Something good is bound to come of it. Wide Awake takes Parquet Courts in a new and funkier direction. It is not a direction I would have predicted but I support the band’s decision to spread their wings. Who wants to hear a band repeat themselves over and over again? The truly great bands take some risks and keep you on your toes. “Wide Awake” is another great album from one of my favorite bands. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.
Link: Free Bird II
03) Floating Action - Heartache Essentials (P.I.A.P.T.K Records)
Each year Floating Action finds “himself” comfortably near the top of my Year’s best of list. There is a good reason. Seth Kauffman is both prolific and one of the most consistently interesting musicians I know. Like all of the previous Floating Action records, all of the instruments on “Heartache Essentials” are played and recorded by Kauffman without any additional musicians. While the finished project sounds like a full band, his recorded output is really the singular vision of a highly accomplished musician and producer. In my opinion, this album features some of his best guitar playing to date. If you are looking for an artist with a great catalog of under appreciated albums I highly recommend “Desert Etiquette” (2011), “Fake Blood” (2012), and “Body Questions” (2014). When you include “Hold Your Fire” (2016) and “Heartache Essentials” (2018) Floating Action has to be in consideration as one of the most accomplished recording artists of the past decade.
Link: Both Feet On The Floor
04) Dem Atlas - Bad Actress (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
I saw that Atmosphere, the rapper from Minneapolis, was playing here in Atlanta. Then I noticed he was touring with Dem Atlas. I never heard of Dem Atlas. Better go to Spotify and check it out. It’s a good thing I did. This album is one of my favorite releases of the year. You could call it hip hop but that would be way too limiting. This artist, a dude who evidently loves maps, crosses genres like other artists cross the street. That’s to say this album effortlessly moves from hip hop to rock to soul – sometimes all in one song. Mixing socially conscious themes with party rocking anthems this album has a lot to say and does it really well.
Link: Bad Loves Company
05) Sunwatchers – II (Trouble In Mind)
This is what I would describe as accessible experimental music. NPR described Sunwatchers’ music as, “....psychedelic music, a brew potent with free jazz, gonzo rock, droning Thai folk melodies, minimalism and mutant funk.” If that sounds like something that might interest you this album is worth seeking out.
Link: Nose Beers
06) Harmony Rockets - Lachesis / Clotho / Atropos (Topkins Square)
Fans of Sonic Youth and Mercury Rev rejoice. If you enjoy either of these bands I’d be surprised if you do not love this album. Not only are both bands represented but add Nels Cline (Geraldine Fibbers, Wilco, etc.) on guitar and you have what amounts to a super-group of really talented musicians. As soon as Steve Shelly’s drums hit on the first tune this record becomes both instantly familiar and somehow really comforting. Break out a good pair of headphones and get ready for one of the bets jams of 2018.
07) Yonatan Gat – Universalists (Joyful Noise Recordings)
Over the past few years Yonatan Gat has edged his way onto my favorite guitarist list. I highly recommend you check his band’s (guitar, bass, drums) videos on Youtube. They are a really great live band. Spiked with the raw intensity of classic 70’s punk and crossed with elements of free jazz, Gat’s sound is a cross-cultural fusion of global influences and some of the most beautiful, interesting, and explosive music I have heard.
08) Mac Miller – Swimming (Warner Bros. Records)
Earlier this year Mac Miller was featured on NPR’s live-in-the-office Tiny Desk concerts. If you haven’t seen the performance you can view it here: Mac Miller on NPR. In the video, Mac looks like someone who is enjoying himself. He sounds like an artist hitting his stride and making the best music of his career. He does not look like a kid who is just a few short weeks away from an overdose and an untimely death. Sad!
Link: What's The Use
09) Angelo Moore - Centuries of Heat (Ropeadope Records)
Some of you may remember Angelo Moore as the mohawk wearing singer, saxophone, and Theremin player from the band Fishbone. Fishbone came out of Los Angeles in the early-1980’s with a sound that blended ska, funk, rock, and soul into something uniquely original. I lived in Los Angeles during the early 1990’s and got to see the band on numerous occasions. They were truly one of the most exciting live bands of their time. I went to see Angelo’s new band, called Brand New Step, before I had listened to the new album. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was blown away by his new material. This is a well-written and produced record that deserves a much larger audience.
Link: Karma Cashback
10) El Ten Eleven - Banker’s Hill (Topshelf Records)
Do you enjoy instrumental rock music? Do you think you’d enjoy listening to Helio Sequence without the vocals? El Ten Eleven use digital tracks for looping and play drums and bass/guitar tracks on top. Their sound blends percussive, melodic, and soaring passages with just the right amount dynamics, dissonance and rough edges.
Link: Banker's Hill