I actually got my 2018 roundup finished before the year is over! Here’s hoping I can keep that planning and productivity intact for all things to come in 2019.
Before we jump into the top 10 albums, here are some concert highlights from 2018:
I went to Cincinnati, Ohio for The National’s first ever Homecoming Festival. (Looking back to last year’s album roundup I had my fingers crossed the lineup would be good, and it was great!)
Saw Jack White at the Mayan and there was a “no phone rule”. Watching a show with my own eyes and not through the video screen of some strangers phone felt refreshing.
Smash Mouth played a free concert at Pershing Square in DTLA. No shame: it was amazing!
Other staple shows of the year were: LCD Soundsystem & the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Hollywood Bowl, Arctic Monkeys at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Courtney Barnett at Pico Union and Leon Bridges at The Greek.
Went to The Foo Fighter’s festival, Cal Jam, and was there for the Nirvana reunion.
Listen along with the 2018 playlist as you make your way through my top 10 albums of the year!
TOP 10 COUNTDOWN
10. SOLACE / RÜFUS DÜ SOL
It’s an odd thing for me to stray from the indie/alternative path… Solace is the exception being the one EDM album on my list. Synth-y, deep, but not too “unce-unce-unce” rave-like. The album is influenced by stark Californian desert landscapes and has a dark, moody vibe that comes along with it.
The cover for Solace was taken by Le Fawnhawk who also photographed artwork for each single release. It’s definitely worth checking her out for her contrasting desert style, especially in the photos where people and shapes are the main focus.
9. FOR EVER / JUNGLE
I had been patiently awaiting Jungle’s sophomore album since 2014. For Ever was worth the 4 year wait which, at times felt like forever. It comes in strong with a heavy, funky percussion on “Smile” that you can’t help but move to. Mid-way you’re met by a keyboard-strong “Casio” that sort of gets you to sway. And it ends on a mix of a bit of everything with “Pray” that’ll send you into a dreamy state of mind.
They have a show at The Hollywood Palladium March 1, 2019!
8. THE OTHER / KING TUFF
The Other dives into the issues of technological addiction, the environment and how it’s suffering by our neglect, and ultimately, death.
Kyle Thomas, (aka King Tuff), touches on questioning what’s out there in the universe; but urges that if we focus too much on what’s out there we may forget what we have here on Earth, and we might realize that too late.
The song “Thru the Cracks”, is a touching tribute where Thomas reminisces about an old friend who is now at peace. Featuring an assist from Jenny Lewis on vocals, it’s a warm reminder that we are all loved, even our darkest hours.
7. SPARKLE HARD / STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS
Good ‘ol American Rock pretty much sums up Sparkle Hard. A bit twangy, almost country at times, with classic storytelling at the center of it all. Listen close for the modern day stories about the “Me Too” movement and Black Lives Matter.
“Kite”, weighing in at a nearly seven minutes, departs from the rest of the album by journeying back to the 2013 style of Wig Out at Jagbags and beyond. It’s like a walkabout for guitar riffs and “doo doo doo” backing vocals. A refreshing jam in the center of the album.
Malkmus has been in the game for a long time and seems to be finally kicking back, doing whatever he wants. Luckily it’s what I want too.
6. GEOGRAPHY / TOM MISCH
Tom Misch has a calculated take on jazz in that his songs are crafted to his version of perfection. They range from the slow, building storyline of “Movie” to the dancy, steady repetitive bass of “Cos I Love You”.
There’s also a cover of “Isn’t She Lovely” randomly wedged in the tracklist that’s a nice little instrumental surprise, and a fun exploration from his usual style.
Even though Geography was one of my most played albums of the year, I somehow can’t sum it up into words as to why. It’s just an easy listen that makes me happy.
5. VIDE NOIR / LORD HURON
Vide Noir is an atmospheric folk-pop triumph.
If you’re searching for the perfect road tripping/driving album, this is it. Picture fuzzy 8mm film playing where the sun hits your windows just right while you drive off into the sunset. Yeah, this could be you.
Lord Huron played The National’s Homecoming festival earlier this year in Cincinnati, OH at Smale Riverfront Park. Hearing them play "Wait by the River" while being between a river and at the edge of a city was a pretty surreal experience. Ben Schneider took it all in when he motioned to the river and skyline as he sang. Goosebumps all around.
4. GOOD THING / LEON BRIDGES
From the first listen, Good Thing felt nostalgic, familiar, comforting and warm. It’s like you’re listening with your best friends, arms around one another even when it’s just you and the music.
I can't listen to "Beyond" without tearing up especially when he sings, "I know that Grandma would've loved her like she was her own." (I’ve got a soft spot for my grandmas in my heart).
On the flip side of that, some laid-back, up-tempo funk songs that were on my heavy rotation this year are “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be")” and “Bad Bad News”.
There’s authenticity that comes with the songs on Good Thing. They remind me of love and loss, better days, but more importantly the great days to come.
Really regretting not buying a "Good Thing" jacket when I saw Leon Bridges at The Greek in LA earlier this year.
3. CON TODO EL MUNDO / KHRUANGBIN
Con Todo El Mundo means "With all the world" which, coincidentally is how much I love this record.
I also recently learned that “Khruangbin” is Thai for airplane. Very fitting for their 70s psychedelic, global sound that will definitely take you on a trip.
I put this album on when I need to zone out to some smooth sounds, or, on the flip side, dance to the occasional funky tune. May I suggest, “Evan Finds the Third Room” or “Maria También” for your swaying dance floor needs.
2. WIDE AWAKE! / PARQUET COURTS
The lyrics off the title track, “I'm wide awake, Mind so woke 'cause my brain never pushed the brakes”, are actually a great way to describe my 2018. A constant ‘go-go-go’ mentality of over-working and planning and trying to make time to do everything all at once, at points resulting in a flurry of anxiety.
Wide Awake! is loud, a bit punk, full of noise/yelling and serves as a great companion for LA traffic.
Earlier this year while browsing a blog I frequent, It’s Nice That, I was surprised to stumble upon an article about Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts. Not only does he do vocals/guitar in the band, but he creates all of the album artwork, too. What an awesome relationship between two creative outlets: one completely fast-paced, and the other slow and relaxed. What a good balance to strive for.
1. TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL / COURTNEY BARNETT
Equipped with a bit of anger, a lot of hope, and a “take shit from no one attitude”, Courtney Barnett told us how she really felt on Tell Me How You Really Feel.
Back in May in a tiny chapel near DTLA, Barnett played the full album front to back and I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to it all the way through since then. (look it’s me front ‘n center in a pink hat!)
This album is chock-full of emotional, soul searching anthems and for me, “Charity” really rose to the top. It talks about this “everything’s amazing” veil we all have over our lives, the obstacles in our way and the truth that none of us really know what we’re doing. “You don’t have to pretend you’re not scared, everyone else is just as terrified as you.” Be kind to one another: we’re all searching: we’re all going through something: we all want to be heard and respected: Are you listening?
The November playlist is here! Ft. new tunes from Toro y Moi, Steve Gunn, Beirut, Little Dragon and more. 🎶Have a listen below.
Here's the highlights:
Toro y Moi dropped a new single and announced a new album Outer Peace set for a January release.
Cat power is finally back!”
“Mono” by Zero 7 is on my heavy rotation right now.
Beirut is back with new tunes!
The May playlist is here! Ft. new tunes from Tom Misch, Leon Bridges, Lord Huron, Melody's Echo Chamber and more. 🎶Have a listen below.
Here's the highlights:
- New music from Leon Bridges is the opposite of his latest single "Bad Bad News", it's Good Good News! Even better news: I'll be seeing him at The Greek in September!
- It's been a while since we've heard from Friendly Fires. They were one of my highschool jams, and they've still got it with their happy, poppy beats as heard on "Love Like Waves".
- Have you listened to King Tuff's new album yet? "Raindrop Blue" is my favorite track, but it was hard to choose with so many good ones!
- I just got back from The National's Homecoming Festival where I saw Lord Huron for the first time! It was SUCH a great show. And hearing "Wait by the River" right next to a river? Amazing. "Moonbeam" is another one of my favorites from their new album Vide Noir.
The March playlist is here! 🎶Ft. new tunes from Courtney Barnett, Dr. Dog, The Voidz, Lord Huron and more. 🎧 Do your ears a favor and have a listen below 🎧
Here's the highlights:
- The Voidz are a band formed by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes and they've got a new track titled "Leave it In My Dreams". I'd like to leave this song in my dreams so I could listen on repeat while sleeping.
- Albert Hammond, Jr. (also from The Strokes) is back with new solo tunes! You can definitely hear loads of Strokes-esque guitar moments in "Far Away Truths".
- "Nameless, Faceless" by Courtney Barnett is a battlecry of a song directed at small-minded men who are internet trolls and just all around terrible people. The best part of it is, Barnett shows how sad and lonely their lifestyle is with lyrics like "I wish that someone could hug you" and "I'm real sorry 'bout whatever happened to you". Fight that hate with empathy and love!
Speaking of lyrics, this month's playlist is loaded with good lines, so I thought I'd do something a little bit different by picking a few of my favorites and making them tangible. I cut out some giant letters, made a letterboard and a little marquee of the lyrics that really stuck with me to create a visual representation of the songs.
King Tuff's "Psycho Star" is a song weighted by the underlying question of reality. My favorite moment in it is: "Chaos and confusion, maybe that is all we really are. The universe is probably an illusion, but isn't it so beautifully bizarre that here we are?" Isn't it?
"Everybody has a light" is such a sweet sentiment in The Dig's track, "Moonlight Baby".
A great kick-in-the-ass reminder from Dr. Dog to "Never give up, go out fighting" off of their new track, "Go Out Fighting".
And finally, a simple but oh-so-complicated note from The Voidz: "Don't overthink it".
I'm sure I'll be illustrating a few more lyrics off of this playlist as the month goes on (because there's too many good ones!). Creating these were so much fun, as was driving around L.A. to snap all of the photos.
Boo! The October Playlist is here!
Here are some highlights:
- Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile are making music together! Their new album is called Lotta Sea Lice and it's out the 13th of this month! They just released this video for the song Continental Breakfast; it's basically them hanging out with friends and family and it's really just the sweetest.
- Morrissey has a new song, Spent the Day in Bed, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet... but I'm excited to hear more from him.
- An out of the blue album release is rare, but Deer Tick one-upped us and released 2 albums out of nowhere in mid-September. If you're an alt-country-type, they have a show at the Teragram on November 11.
- If you like Angel Olsen, you'll probably like Lomelda. Everyone needs some mellow angelic singing in their lives, and this song happens to be perfect for driving.
- Okay so this has nothing to do with this month's playlist, but Wolf Parade's new album Cry Cry Cry comes out October 6, but you can stream it now on NPR!
PS: This Halloween, (okay technically October 28), you can find me at the KCRW Masquerade Ball. There's going to be music by The Black Madonna, Matthew Dear, Tensnake, Moon Boots and more! See you there?