2018 was bewildering. (And that's a kind assessment.) However, in an impressive display of balance, the year also provided perhaps the best annual collection of music ever released in my adult lifetime.
For instance, 2018 saw the release of a lost John Coltrane record. I can see how a band like Death went missing for decades, but how does a Coltrane record get discarded? That’s weird. Plus, it’s good. But maybe not good enough for this year, which saw a rich sonic response to the world we live in.
Superchunk's What a Time to Be Alive, IDLES' Joy as an Act of Resistance, Rock*A*Teens' Sixth House, and an astounding collection of African guitar geniuses, I’m Not Here to Hunt Rabbits were my top records of the year.
From those and others, I’ve corralled 18 favorites from 2018 (playlist link):
Tierra Wack - Black Nails : Perfectly succinct poetry and delivery.
Tobe Nwigwe - JOCKIN : A sermon delivered casually, with Ghostpoet-esque beats.
The Coup - OYAHYTT : Like most everything the Coup does, poignantly fun.
Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis - Who Cares : This song’s just a few months old, but it sure sounds ancient.
Mind Spiders - Outside : Continues to fill the DEVOid.
CIVIC - New Vietnam : The malevolent boy, gratuitously advertising his badness as a boastful woo. Mick Jagger perfected this blues staple in songs like “Stray Cat Blues.” Iggy Pop was pretty dang good at it. Darlene Love tried to explain bad boy appeal. This Aussie band takes its cues from Radio Birdman and delivers a stomper.
IDLES - Great : Islam didn't eat your hamster / Change isn't a crime / So won't you take my hand, sir / And sing with me in time.
Bad Sports - I Don’t Deserve Love : Another anthem from a band of plenty.
Solly Sebotso - Rampoka : Thanks to Tim for turning me on to this man’s magic (grabbed from a 2018 collection that’s so perfect it could’ve filled this list… Batlaadira Radipitse, Sebongile Kgaila, Oteng Peet… amazing stuff.).
Superchunk - Cloud of Hate : You have a dream / A bloody nightmare / For every human that's not you / You scare the kids / I hope you die scared / Of all the kids that know the truth.
Joe Strummer - Pouring Rain (1984) : Tom Greenhalgh of the Mekons is my all-time favorite singer, but Strummer is second, right up there with J. Cash and O. Redding. This year, we got to hear unreleased Clash-era Strummer… very cool.
Negative Scanner - TV : I thought of Jason G. when I first heard this ‘cause it’s... complicated. We get some serious post-punk rhythmic nuttiness after she shouts “You’re a piece of work!” Great voice. I’m terrible at predictions, but I gotta believe this band’s future is bigger.
Dwight Yoakam - I’ll be Gone* : This one sneaks in as my bargain record find of the year: 5 bucks at a shop in Port Costa. Record is A Town South of Bakersfield, featuring LA twang circa 1985.
Rock*A*Teens - Go Tell Everybody : Triumphant return of one of the best bands from the 90’s. This just might be my favorite song of the year.
Spider Bags - Ninety Day Dog : Every record by Spider Bags sounds like it was inspired by Exile and Beggars… delivered with This Bike is a Pipe Bomb energy.
Dolly Parton & Mavis Staples - Why : Hopeful Christian sentiment sounds best in Christmas carols or, in this case, delivered by capable country/soul singers.
Cold Meat - Lazy Anarchy : So much great punk sung by women this year. Krimewatch, Amyl & The Sniffers, BB & The Blips, Death Valley Girls… all nods to Siouxsie, Ari, Blondie.
Fucked Up - Came Down Wrong : Most people hate this band for its pop-hardcore concept albums. Not me. Teaming up with J Mascis, a plus.
Almost: Willie Nelson - She Made My Day : Nelson released his first album of self-penned songs in decades and this one is quintessentially classic country, where there’s always, always a “but...” Santigold - Coo Coo Coo : Punks mine dancehall better than anyone, ‘course it helps that she partners with proper producers. Jeff Tweedy - Don’t Forget : A song full of good advice. Tallest Man on Earth - Down in My Heart : His gentlemanly songwriting is a goddamn tractor beam.